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Published: May 22, 2024

older woman on paddle board

What’s SUP?

Yes, summer in Ohio means it’s time for stand up paddle boarding and other paddle sports. And good news, there are plenty of places to rent a paddle board, canoe or kayak if you don’t own equipment.  But first, aside from paddling being so accessible what with Lake Erie and many navigable rivers in our backyard, why give it a try?

"Paddling sports help tone muscles that make everyday movements easier with less chance of injury," says Kathleen Salas, a physical therapist with Spaulding Adaptive Sports Centers at Harvard-affiliated Spaulding Rehabilitation Network. "Plus, they get you outside with nature, which supports your mental and emotional health."

 Other health benefits, according to Harvard Health Publishing, include;

  • Great workout for core, back, arms and shoulders;
  • Helps strengthen muscles for everyday movement;
  • Improves hand grip;
  • Being around water is calming and can help lower blood pressure and heart rate.

 Paddle safety tips

 But like any water activity, paddling safely takes some planning. Always boat with another person, wear a properly fitted life jacket at all times, use sunscreen, carry drinking water and file a “float plan” with a person on land with ETA.

 Other safety tips from Cleveland Metroparks

 Always check the 4 Ws before heading out – wind, waves, weather and water

  • Carry a sound signaling device such as a whistle
  • Use a white light such as a headlamp at night and around sunrise/sunset
  • When paddling in cold water conditions, be sure to dress appropriately (consider a wetsuit or dry suit when water temperatures are below 60 F
  • Use a dry bag for cell phone and extra set of clothes.

Hit the water

For beginners, Cleveland Metroparks recommends Hinkley Lake and Wallace Lake, both which offer rentals, because of their limited waves, wind and traffic conditions.

Looking for more of an adventure? “The Lake Erie Water Trail – Cuyahoga County spans 20+ miles along the lakefront connecting to both the Cuyahoga River Water Trail, Rocky River, and Euclid Creek.  Paddlers should be prepared to paddle in open water in which the weather, wind, waves, and water conditions should be assessed before paddling,” according to Metroparks.

Heading west check out Vermilion, where you can explore the Lake Erie shoreline and Vermilion River, then end your outing with lunch or a drink in the picturesque lakefront city. Rentals available from West River Paddling Co.

Other destinations in the Western Basin are include:

“The Old Woman Creek estuary consists of habitats including marsh, swamp and upland forests, scrub-shrub, creek, barrier beach and near-shore Lake Erie. The estuary attracts waterfowl and wading birds such as wood ducks, great blue and green herons, egrets, belted kingfishers and shorebirds. Several rare plants and animals, including the American bald eagle, thrive near the estuary,” according to the Ohio Division of Wildlife and the National Estuarine Research Reserve that cooperatively manage the 573-acre reserve.

Canoeists need a permit (no charge), which is available at the Visitor Center, 2514 Cleveland Road East. The reserve also offers guided on-water tours and has a limited number of canoes available. Call 419-433-4601 for more information.

Put-in-Bay is a long distance to paddle for many, but you can take your car and canoe on the Miller Ferry, then launch at the South Bass Island State Park.  Even easier is to rent a kayak at Kayak the Bay, Ltd., located just west of downtown at Oak Point State Park. The company also offers guided tours of Gibraltar Island and a one-hour sunset paddle.

The scenic Portage River in Port Clinton is a paddling destination and a perfect spot for birdwatching. Rentals available at Portage River Paddling Company.

After an excursion or two, you might decide it’s time to buy a paddle board, canoe or kayak. To help you sort through the equipment choices – and there are many – check out these helpful guides from REI.


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Author Molly Kavanaugh 2020In the past, Molly Kavanaugh frequently wrote about Kendal at Oberlin for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, where she was a reporter for 16 years. Now we are happy to have her writing for the Kendal at Oberlin Community.

About Kendal at Oberlin: Kendal is a nonprofit life plan community serving older adults in northeast Ohio. Located about one mile from Oberlin College and Conservatory, and about a 40 minute drive from downtown Cleveland, Kendal offers a vibrant resident-led lifestyle with access to music, art and lifelong learning.