Up North: Paddlers test the waters in new whitewater SUP clinics

Alicia Tipcke
Updated: September 23, 2020 10:58 PM

Swift rapids may send some stand up paddle boarders paddling away, but not Jared Munch. That's because the Carlton, Minnesota man works as a professional whitewater stand up paddle boarding instructor.

"I know, to the new eyes to the sport, it might sound a little bit crazy," said Munch. "But really it's a very unique combination of surfing skills and whitewater canoeing skills."

Munch said he used to only teach friends for fun, but this summer decided to offer his classes to the public for the first time.

Bryce Thomas and his brother Tristan Thomas were two of those that signed up for the clinic last weekend.

"I attended it for the first time about a month ago and I enjoyed it, so I'm here for a second run," said Bryce.

Step one in the class is to gear up. Munch and his students get in a wetsuit, put on elbow and knee pads, a helmet, life jacket and close toed shoes.

Then a leash attached to the board is clipped to each individual's life jacket. This assures that if a paddler falls off their board the board won't get swept away. A pull-away mechanism is also attacked to the clip in case a paddler needs to disengage from their board.

Once in the water, Munch began teaching paddle strokes and board maneuvers to help people stay upright. The next lesson was footwork. 

"We're making a conscious effort to adjust how our board is trimmed and tilted in the water at all times. Then the last part is learning the actual hydrodynamics of the river and understanding how the current is going to interact with the board and paddle," said Munch. 

Leslie Tritten, a beginner in last weekend's clinic, said footwork was one of the tougher aspects of learning the sport. "It's one thing to move your feet but when you're on an unstable platform, it can be a little bit more difficult."

The beginner clinics are run on the St. Louis River near Jay Cook State Park in Carlton, Minnesota. The location offers flat water to work on basics and strong currents for the whitewater aspect of the sport.

"This is my first time out here," said Tristan Thomas last Saturday. "Waters been nice for me. I think it's great, beautiful weather. I haven't hit the rapids yet but I'm psyched, looks really exciting."

This unique twist on traditional stand up paddling boarding is something Munch said, given a solid foundation, most anyone can achieve. 


Alicia Tipcke

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