Adventure May 13, 2015

Walking on Water

Stand Up Paddleboarders Take to Idaho's Rivers and Lakes

“Life revolves around water,” exclaimed Todd Bradley, one of the founders and owners of the first stand up paddleboard company in the world, C4 Waterman.

In recent years, stand up paddleboarding has exploded onto the forefront of outdoor recreation, and the ripple is only continuing to unfurl, as newbies try out the sport on
lakes, rivers and oceans; experts push the limits going bigger, faster and harder; and everyone who’s out there enjoys the connection, ease and bliss of being on the water. 

Danny Walton and his dog, Nesta, paddling down Silver Creek.

The beginnings of the sport of stand up paddleboarding, or “SUP-ing,” are rooted in the waves and open oceans of the Hawaiian Islands. Although Africans and many other cultures have stood up on wooden rafts and canoes with a long paddle in hand for thousands of years, it is the local beach boys of Oahu and Maui that are credited with the beginning of SUP as we know it. The combination of two of the traditional Hawaiian sacred rights of passage, surfing and paddling outrigger canoes, gave birth to the stand up paddleboarding of today. 

Bradley, born and raised on the island of Oahu, remembers growing up on the beach and seeing “the old boys” standing up on giant tandem boards paddling around with a long canoe paddle. They would give surf lessons and take photos to sell to tourists, as standing was a way to be chill, relax and keep their non-waterproof cameras dry while out on the water all day. 

Bradley and his Oahu crew began to devote more to SUP both for training and for wave riding, creating and building the sport. Simultaneously, Laird Hamilton and Dave Kalama were developing SUP on Maui. For the most part, “SUP-ers” were using long boards, tandem boards and old windsurfing boards, but in 2006, Bradley, Brian Keaulana and Archie Kalepa created the company C4 Waterman, which made specific boards and paddles for standup. 

“In 2010, it just exploded,” Bradley said.

Ketchum filmmaker Leah Warshawski explained the appeal this way: “It’s very user friendly and not hard or intimidating to learn, especially on flat water. It can be as easy or hard as you want it to be, can accommodate every size person and is a stable and safe way to get out on the water. You can even bring your dog aboard.” 

Danny Walton paddles his way through the  reedy waterways near Stanley Lake.

Warshawski and her husband Todd Soliday documented Bradley along with some of the most talented men and women stand up paddleboarders in the world on a river trip down the Main Salmon River. 

The river trip was “a culmination of something that Hawaiians have known and developed, and then brought to a place and environment that they’ve never experienced before. Gathering the most experienced water men and women in the world, most of whom have never seen bald eagles or bears, to the remote interior of Idaho, is a profound experience. Stand up paddleboarding on the river simply took their surfing skills to a seventh dimension,” noted Warshawski. 

While SUP may have started in the islands, it has taken the mainland, including Idaho, by storm. Sun Valley local Danny Walton got into SUP in 2010 while volunteering at a Higher Ground veterans’ camp and “was instantly hooked.” In 2013, Walton became the first person to paddle the 35 miles across Western Lake Erie as a fundraiser for children’s cancer. It took him 12 hours to dig in against the current and make his way to Canada. 

One of the C4 Watermen navigates the Salmon River. Photo courtesy Inflatable Film.Walton and Guy Robbins own and operate the Sun Valley Paddleboard Company (SVPC), which offers accredited American Canoe Association stand up paddleboard instruction and a fleet of boards for rent. Walton said that while SUP can be easy or a great workout, it’s also a profound way to get out on the water and experience nature. He described experiences of an osprey dropping in next to him to snatch a fish and happening upon an elk rounding the bend while on a paddle at Redfish Lake

Many of the best SUP racers in the world congregate in the small rural town of Cascade, Idaho, every June to compete in the Payette River Games (PRG) at Kelly’s Whitewater Park on the Payette River in hopes of claiming a piece of the $50,000 in cash prizes. This year the event is from June 19 to 21, continues to boast gender equality in prizes ($25,000 for each male and female event) and will hold a Super G race and a SUP Cross. PRG invites everyone, from “the world’s biggest stars to the weekend warrior,” to participate in this event, which pampers all participants with free local and organic meals, camping, and riverside hot tubs. 

Whether you attend a yoga SUP class (that’s right, doing yoga while balancing on a board in the water) at the YMCA in Ketchum, go fishing on your board or take your chances riding the rapids of the rivers, stand up and get out on the water this summer. While life revolves around water, you may just begin to revolve your life
around SUP. 


Lloyd Construction is a proud supporter of Sun Valley Magazine

The Sawtooth Valley is an integral piece of the culture within our company. Each member of our team fosters a love and deep respect for not only the natural beauty and countless recreational opportunities available there, but also for the historical significance and American West standards that the SNRA strives to maintain. Lloyd Construction is working hard to build their business in the Stanley Basin, with an impressive resume of work ranging from new construction to remodels and historical preservation projects.

With year-round clientele in the area requiring a wide variety of services, as well as a new, multi-million dollar project in the pre-construction stage likely to span several years, Lloyd Construction has added a satellite office near Stanley. The location will serve as a base from which to manage present and future Sawtooth Valley projects.


This article appears in the Issue of Sun Valley Magazine.