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Glacial Lakes State Park in Starbuck, Minnesota has been selected as a pilot site for paddle boarding

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Forum News Service

Minnesota State Parks have latched onto the latest trend in water sports by making stand up paddle boards available for rent at a select number of pilot sites, including Starbuck’s Glacial Lakes State Park.

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Called “SUP” by the in-the-know-crowd, stand up paddle boarding involves standing on a board similar to a surf board and propelling yourself around a lake with a long paddle.

The goal is to keep your balance, not fall off and have fun and get some exercise. It’s a fast-growing sport and the state was quick to recognize it as a marketing tool for the parks and a good way to promote a new physical activity.

“We keep our eye on emerging recreational trends,” said Amy Barrett from the Division of Parks and Trails in St. Paul.

It’s the same reason why state parks offer geo-cashing with GPS instruments, camper cabins and a lot list of educational environmental kits for kids and fishing gear and birding gear that they loan out to campers.

The focus is “getting young people outdoors” and getting the next generation to come to state parks, she said.

“It’s really cool. It’s something different,” said Anita Henningsgaard, a park worker at Glacial Lakes State Park, where the boards became available for rent last week. “It’ll be something to get people attracted to the park,” she said.

The rental fee is $10 an hour.

“It’s an affordable opportunity for families,” said Barret, who said eight parks currently have paddle boards but said she expects that more parks will receive them yet this year and next year.

In anticipation of receiving the paddle boards, the Friends of Glacial Lakes State Park group hired an Alexandria company called Hangloose Minnesota to spend a Saturday in mid-July giving free lessons and 15-minute sessions on their paddle boards to park guests.

All the sessions were booked, not only with campers staying at the park but with area residents who drove to the park just for the chance to try out paddle boarding.

“It’s fantastic. It’s a lot of fun,” said Eric Peterson, from Minnetonka, who gave paddle boarding a try with Victoria Yin, a friend. “We’ve never tried it before.”

Amy Schnoes, assistant manager at Glacial Lakes State Park, said the quiet 57-acre Singalness Lake in the heart of the park is perfect for paddle boarding. Boats with gas motors are not allowed on the lake, which is also protected from wind.

The paddle boards will give campers a new water sport and creates a “good opportunity for state parks to get new clientele,” said Schnoes, as she watched people of all ages try the sport during the classes.

“I really haven’t seen anybody fall yet,” she said. “They’re pretty talented out there. They seem to be enjoying it.”

While paddling the board isn’t strenuous, “trying to figure out the balance thing” can be challenging, said Henningsgaard, who has tried out the park’s new boards.

Kandiyohi County Park 5 on Green Lake near Spicer also has stand up paddle boards for people to rent. Managers Laura and Dean Anfinson purchased two boards three weeks ago and they’ve been rented out every day since. “It’s going so well. We’re so happy we started this adventure,” said Laura Anfinson.

Rental fee for a board at County Park 5 is $30 for up to four hours and $50 for more than four hours.

Anfinson said they may purchase two more boards next year. A high-end board and paddle costs about $1,200.

Several area businesses have sold out of their stock of paddle boards.

“We can’t even keep them in the store,” said Shannon Bloom from Dunham’s Sports in Willmar. “Since summer started people have been asking for them a lot.”

Bloom said the paddle boards are sold about as fast as they are stocked on the shelves. People like it because “they say it’s more exciting that riding a kayak.”

Shawn Kolar, from Family Marine in Willmar, said they sold out of their paddle boards and are now focusing on selling boats and boards for another fast-growing water sport trend - wake surfing.

The specialty boats, which are equipped with large bladders filled with water, create an “endless wave” on the lake that a person surfs behind.

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