Frequently Asked Questions

What is Stand Up Paddle Boarding or SUP?

Stand Up Paddle Boarding, also known as SUP, is a low impact sport that involves standing on a large board and propelling yourself forward through water with a paddle. The sport originated in Hawaii. In the 60's, the Waikiki beach boys modernized the sport by heading out to the lineup while standing on thick longboards and paddling with canoe paddles to take photos of tourists. The sport experienced a resurgence in the early 2000's when big wave surfers Laird Hamilton, Dave Kalama, Brian Keaulana, Bruce DeSoto and Mel Puu used SUP to cross-train in the off season when the waves were flat on Oahu and Maui. Since then, the sport has shown tremendous growth and popularity on most oceans, lakes and rivers.

Why should I try SUP?

SUP is a great full-body workout and is known for strengthening the core muscles (back, abs and legs), improving balance and coordination. SUP is also a great way to explore your local river or lake or coastline. SUP's low impact to the environment makes it ideal for sightseeing, birdwatching and exploring other wildlife from a completely different perspective than on land.

What sets you apart from other outfitters?

  • Our patient certified instructors work with all body types, ages and skill levels from beginners to advanced paddlers.
  • Good balance or fitness not required.
  • Strong focus on safety.
  • High instructor to student ratio.
  • We provide the most comprehensive beginning to advanced SUP training on the Napa River.
  • We support our community by offering donations, SUP demos and races throughout the year that benefit various local organizations, including the Friends of the Petaluma River, the Petaluma Butter & Eggs and Beer Festival and the Petaluma Small Craft Center
  • We have a strong environmental commitment and support several conservation activities.

What does learning SUP involve?

Our certified SUP instructor will begin with a short land-based training session, then expand upon the lesson on the water. Within a couple hours, you can expect to become comfortable paddling through the water and standing on a board.

What are the general SUP rules on the water?

  • 1. The US Coast Guard determined that SUPs are considered vessels outside of a surf or swim zone and must adhere to the rules and regulations that govern vessels. You need an acceptable PFD (personal flotation device) and a signaling device such as a whistle on you or the board. Children under the age of 13 MUST wear a type 1, 2, or 3 PFD at all times.
  • 2. Since SUPs are one of, if not the smallest vessel on the water, we essentially have no right of way rights on the water. SUPs must give way to larger vessels.
  • 3. SUPs should always cross astern or behind oncoming motorized boat traffic.
  • 4. To SUP at night, dawn or dusk, you must possess a white light that is visible up to a mile and able to shine towards oncoming traffic.

Can you explain some general water safety?

Know your local water-ways and make sure that you check the weather forecast. Know what the local currents and tides are doing. Understand what the local boat traffic is like and identify any hazards that are in the area that you paddle. Also understand the hours of operation for your launch area and who to contact in case of an emergency. Wear a pfd and leash where appropriate

Do I need to know how to swim?

Yes! You must know how to swim.

Do I need my own equipment?

No. We can provide you with all of the equipment you need for our classes - board, paddle and pfd. For our PaddleFit Fitness classes and advanced courses, participants may bring their own equipment. Need equipment to rent or purchase? We can set you up with everything you need for your paddling adventures.

What should I bring?

Dress as if you are going to go swimming. A swimsuit, shorts, shirt, sunscreen, hat, towel and water bottle are essential during the warmer months. In the cooler months, neoprene pants and shirts are not a bad idea. There may be early morning fog and cooler temperatures at the time of your class, so be mindful of this when choosing clothing to wear for the paddle. Layering your clothing so that you can shed a jacket or long sleeve shirt during the paddle is ideal.

Where is your location?

A majority of our adventures and rentals launch from 775 Baywood Dr #105, Petaluma, CA 94954 in the Petaluma Marina. We will tell you where to meet us prior to your paddle.

Why are your tours scheduled as they are?

We schedule our adventures based on ideal tide and weather conditions. The date and time of your tour or rental was chosen because the tide will be sufficient enough for us to enjoy the river in its best conditions. Wind can also be problematic on the river in the afternoons paddling to some areas, but perfect for downind paddles.. Wind can make learning to SUP a frustrating and challenging experience and we want to minimize that chance at all costs, so beginners are advised to pick morning paddles, while experienced paddlers should consider downwind adventures. There may be early morning fog and cooler temperatures in the evenings, so be mindful of this when choosing clothing to wear for the paddle. Layering your clothing so that you can shed a jacket for long sleeve shirt during the paddle is ideal.

Who are your guides and do they have any special qualifications?

All of our guides are WPA Level 1 and PaddleFit CORE certified and hold current CPR, basic life support and first aid credentials. Our head coach, Heather Bailie is an avid paddler and has years of experience on the water. Owner Drew Dickson helped introduce SUP to these waterways in 2012 and has guided hundreds of trips throughout the Northern Reach of San Pablo Bay, in addition to hundreds of hours fly fishing for striped bass.

What if I have physical limitations or injuries?

Your safety on the water is our main concern. Injuries to the shoulders, back and legs may hinder your ability to stand on a board and paddle. Any injury that will compromise your safety on the water should be taken seriously and we ask that you talk to your doctor before booking a class. SUP requires standing or kneeling on a board for about an hour during our classes and engages the shoulders, back and hips. Paddling can be catered to your specific needs with prior arrangements. Don't hesitate to ask!

Is it okay to fall in the Petaluma River?

Yes! Over the past twenty years, much effort has gone into cleaning up the Petaluma River. The River is slowly returning to its natural state with the help of organizations like Friends of the Petaluma River. There has been a tremendous decrease in pollution and increased tidal flow from the Bay that has helped to replenish fish populations and wildlife along the river.

While the River is still considered compromised due to sedimentation and erosion, this does not necessarily translate into unsafe water. Though the Petaluma River may become murky during lower tides, it is a healthy river and perfectly suitable to fall into.

There is a slight chance that you will fall in and get wet. However, our guides will teach you the skills you need to stay on your board and enjoy the glide.

Do you have a cancellation or no show policy?

Absolutely! Due to the nature of our business and the demand for our tours and rentals, we require 24 hours notice to cancel your reservation. Cancellations made before 24 hours may be eligible for refund. Those who do not show up to their tours forfeit the full tour or rental fee.

What is PaddleFIT?

PaddleFit is a complete fitness coaching system that takes you through a full physical assessment which we then use to develop a clearly defined path that will help you achieve your goals through both land based workouts, paddling technique and water based workouts. We will spend the majority of our time in the outdoors, taking advantage of the natural terrain to enhance our workout experience, both physically and mentally.