Stand Up Paddling is What's SUP Annapolis
The activity is a fast growing water sport that's catching on in and around the city.
Don't let the name fool you. SUP isn't a way to casually greet a friend when you're feeling too lethargic to say "What's Up?" It's actually short for "Stand Up Paddling," and it's a popular watersport that's quickly catching on in Annapolis thanks to a group of self-proclaimed diehards.
Ben Butterwei runs the company SUP Annapolis out of his garage. His boards are for sale both there and at Brown Eyed Girl surf shop on West Street. The company, run by five local paddlers and in its second year of operation, also gives lessons to people who are curious to try.
"I got into it a while ago in Ocean City, and got hooked right away," Butterwei said. When asked why, he laughs."Once you do it, you'll realize," he said.
On a recent Saturday morning Butterwei and three friends showed up at Amos Garrett Park to partake in their favorite watersport and do something good for the environment. Each of them brought a trashbag and cleaned up trash and waste along Spa Creek during the ride. Among the things found were some carpet and a tire.
They looped around the downtown area, going under the Eastport bridge and were greeted by tourists and onlookers when they made it to Ego Alley.
"Wow look at that," a group of people said while crowding around to get a better glimpse.
After the cleanup, they held a demo to show off new boards and let people try them out.
The group agreed that it's a lot easier than it looks. Andrew Miller said he tried it for the first time in June and this was only his third time out.
They all agreed it's a good workout.
"I'd much rather be doing this than going to a gym or anything like that. Being out on the water and getting exercise is fun," Butterwei said.
Because the water can be cold for newcomers who sometimes tip over, SUP Annapolis normally stops lessons around November, but the diehards themselves paddle all year long, wearing wetsuits in the winter months. Butterwei even said he was out paddling last Christmas Eve in the snow.
The sport is growing quickly and is especially popular in Florida, California and Hawaii. According to supglobal.com, the sport's origins come from the Hawaiin Islands and it started to get popular there in the 1960s. Unlike surfing SUPing doesn't require waves. In the early 2000s surfers like Laird Hamilton and Rick Thomas helped bring it to the mainstream.
And Butterwei said he's seeing that peak in interest about the sport here in Annapolis too.
"Last year we did a race and I think eight people showed up. This year we did a race and I think there were 27 people. So each year it's gonna get bigger and bigger," he said.