Slice of old Hawaii on the Roaring Fork |

Slice of old Hawaii on the Roaring Fork

Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times

ASPEN Wondering what to do with that old windsurfer hanging in the garage?Charlie MacArthur has just the ticket: Try stand-up paddling on a whitewater river.MacArthur, a longtime area kayak instructor and new owner of the Aspen Kayak Academy, is pioneering the new sport.”Suddenly class I and II is fun again,” MacArthur said.

Using long raft-guide paddles and standing on ocean longboards or old windsurfers without sails, MacArthur does everything that kayakers can do: ferrying, eddying out and paddling into the current, and ripping the curl of big, standing waves. He’s taken a surfboard on the class III Shoshone stretch of the Colorado River, and though stand-up paddling is in its infancy, he’s introducing the sport to students of his kayak school.But he’s not the first. MacArthur said the tradition of stand-up paddling on longboards likely goes back to the ancient Hawaiians, and stand-up ocean surfing – also called “beach-boy” style – hearkens back to the 1950s-era surfing boom in Hawaii, when surf instructors and lifeguards would stand on traditional longboards to stay dry while snapping photos of tourists.MacArthur, a Southern California native and longtime surfer, spent summers in Hawaii. And he remembers elderly Hawaiian men using long paddles to catch long, low rolling waves far from shore. He and his friends would join, sometimes two to a board, he said.

“There’s guys that’s all they do and [have] been doing since the ’50s and ’60s,” MacArthur said. Stand-up paddling in ocean waves experienced a recent surge in popularity thanks to surfing legend Laird Hamilton, a big-wave surfer whose pursuit of stand-up paddling has brought world attention to the sport, MacArthur said.And translating surf skills to whitewater rivers is nothing new to MacArthur; surfing rivers in kayaks is what’s kept him in the mountains nearly 20 years, he said.Whitewater pioneers like Jeff Snyder, who turned to stand-up paddling after a back injury, were the ones to start the sport on whitewater rivers, dropping high waterfalls in modified inflatable duckies. But MacArthur is hoping to get more people excited about stand-up paddling on area rivers using speedy and highly maneuverable ocean boards.”I think there’s a lot to be explored in these,” MacArthur said, adding that there is an addictive simplicity to the sport. “I just think it’s fun. It’s something that comes from the oceans. … And it’s great cross-training for snowboarding and skiing.”MacArthur likened the crossover from kayaking to stand-up paddling to going from skiing to snowboarding.

“It’s just different enough from kayaking to really get excited about,” MacArthur said.”It makes you focus on the river more,” said Morgan Boyles, 17, of Aspen. Saturday was Boyles’ first go at stand-up paddling on the Roaring Fork River near the North Star Preserve. An experienced kayaker, Boyles said that while kayaking is all in the hips, stand-up paddling is an all-body sport. He’s not sure he’ll give up kayaking for the surfboard but called the experience “interesting.””You haven’t had that board out in 20 years,” MacArthur tells friends who have moldy windsurfers leaning against sheds or hanging from the rafters in their garages. He personally practices the three-year rule for keeping gear – if you haven’t used it in three years, get rid of it – and he encourages people to take up the sport or donate their old boards to his school.For more information about stand-up paddling (or kayaking), call the Aspen Kayak Academy at 925-4433.For information about paddling in the Aspen area, go to Agar’s e-mail address is

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