Drivers and pedestrians passing by the Hurricane reservoir on Teays Valley Road have been treated to an unexpected sight – people traveling across the water on paddle boards. Appalachian Boarding Company and the City of Hurricane have teamed up to offer this exciting new activity at the reservoir throughout the summer.
Evan Young is the owner and founder of Appalachian Boarding Company. He first discovered paddleboarding while on vacation in Peurto Rico. He says that he was proposing to his wife at sunset one night, and then discovered paddleboarding the next day. “It was kind of like my first love and my second love,” he says.
Young wanted to try paddleboarding on the rivers in West Virginia. However, he discovered that there was no place to rent paddle boards in the Huntington/Charleston area. He believes it was possible to rent them at Fayettesville and the Summersville Lake, but that was an almost two hour drive away.
“Since I couldn’t rent one, I decided to buy one from a sporting goods store and teach myself, and I have been paddling ever since,” he says.
Young’s wife, Brooke, also became involved in paddleboarding and is now a certified instructor as well. They have four daughters, ages 2 through 10, and all of them paddleboard. “The youngest learned to stand up paddle before her second birthday,” he says proudly.
Young formed the Appalachian Boarding Company in 2016. At first, he taught paddleboarding lessons in Tornado, because of ease of access to the Coal River from Meadowood Lake. Beginners could learn on the lake, and then later graduate to the Coal River.
Later, the Appalachian Boarding Company started hosting lessons at the Tri-County YMCA in Scott Depot. Occasionally, they would use the Raymond City boat ramp or the Buffalo boat ramp.
When the City of Winfield and the DNR put in the new boat ramp in Winfield, Young was exhilarated. While Buffalo and Poca are both good locations, the river at Buffalo has more current, and the smokestacks at John Amos make some people nervous. According to Young, paddling in Winfield is like paddling on a lake, because it is above the locks and dam, and the river current is very slow there. Also, this location provides great visibility, with many locations where spectators can watch the paddleboarders.
Appalachian Boarding Company has brought paddleboarding to yet another location in Putnam County: the Hurricane reservoir. Young says that he had considered the reservoir when he started paddleboarding, but he thought the water was too shallow and no one would let him paddle there. While running a 5K on Meeks Mountain Trails, he happened to meet Mayor Scott Edwards. He had met the mayor before at social events, and at a business expo in Huntington, Edwards won a prize for a free paddleboarding lesson.
Edwards jokingly asked Young why he was at the 5K, because there was no water. Then the mayor told him that he wanted to host paddleboarding events at the Hurricane reservoir, but only under the supervision of the Appalachian Boarding Company. Young discovered that the reservoir ranges anywhere from 3.5 to 6 feet in most areas, which is deep enough, especially considering that it is possible to paddleboard at the YMCA’s indoor swimming pool.
Lessons at the Hurricane reservoir started on July 6, and will be held every Tuesday until August 3. All ages and skill levels are welcome. The first session is from 5 to 6:30 p.m., and the second session is from 7 to 8:30 p.m. A single session costs $25, while both sessions are $35.
Appalachian Boarding Company will also be holding sessions on select Sundays – July 25, August 1, August 15, and August 29. The first session will be from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Hurricane reservoir, while the second session will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Winfield boat ramp.
Appalachian Boarding provides paddle boards and life vests for participants. They also offer a tandem paddle board that can hold two paddlers up to 460 pounds.
Young says that he likes paddleboarding because it is fun and easy on the body, providing a low impact workout. It also gets a person ready for surfing as well. “The board skills you need to surf you can learn on flat water on a paddle board and you can take that knowledge to learn how to surf,” he says.
Although the best place to surf is at the ocean, Young says that it is possible to surf boat waves on the Kanawha River, or paddleboard during high winds and let the wind push you along, although these particular conditions are not common on the river. He has tried surfing the waves at the Wave Pool, and while it was fun and challenging, it was not an accurate simulation of real ocean surfing.
“Paddle boarding can be as much thrill as you want it to be, based on what you want to do,” he says. “Like if you want to chill out and float or go really fast, you really have options.”
Paddleboarding also provides views which cannot be seen from the roads. “People don’t realize how long the Hurricane reservoir is,” Young says. “You can see more wild life and greenery, and you don’t hear the road noises.”
Young says that he would like to see Putnam County becoming the leader of paddleboarding activities in West Virginia. The sport has grown in popularity around the state, and Young would like to see the establishment of racing teams, especially among local youth.
The Appalachian Boarding Company has established a paddleboarding club at Teays Valley Christian School. “We wanted to give the kids another option for a healthy after school activity, especially if they don’t play other sports,” says Young. He attended Teays Valley Christian, graduating in 2002, so the school means a lot to him. He says some of the kids who learned how to paddleboard are now racing paddle boards and kayaks at a beginner level.
“I would let people know that any age is a good age to paddleboard or do any athletic ability,” Young says. “We really have everyone from age 4 to 94 come out and paddleboard. It is our favorite thing to do as a family.”
Young would like to express his gratitude to Mayor Scott Edwards of Hurricane and Mayor Randy Barrett of Winfield for supporting the Appalachian Boarding Company.
Those who are interested in paddle boarding lessons can check out Appalachian Boarding Company’s schedule of events on their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/appalachianboarding company For more information, call Evan Young at 304-610-8999.