The Jersey Paddler is as much a part of a revolutionary movement in paddlesports across the Garden State as it is one of Brick’s longest-thriving businesses.
This week, the store’s staff will travel to Somerset where they have organized their annual Paddlesport show, a three day-long whirlwind of exhibits, clinics, demonstrations and more, featuring the latest and greatest in the very sports the shop has helped popularize in New Jersey.
This year, Paddlesport – like many of the newest displays at the store – will heavily feature products and demonstrations on kayak fishing and stand-up paddleboarding (better known as SUPing), two variations of paddling which have introduced millions of new enthusiasts to the paddling world nationwide. In New Jersey, Jersey Paddler has led the way by hiring staff members who are enthusiasts as well, and carrying a wide array of products to help people ease into either sport and grow from there.
The Low-Down on Stand-Up Paddleboarding
Over the last two to three years, SUPing has taken off like a rocket in New Jersey, the Jersey Paddler staff told us recently during a trip to the shop. Stand-up paddleboards resembles surfboards but are generally larger, more stable and are designed to be paddled rather than simply ridden. The Shore’s surf culture has played a large part in the sport becoming more popular, many believe.
“Everyone wants to be a surfer, and this is a chance for everyone to get out on the water, see the water from a different perspective and get up on a board,” explained Chris MacPhee, a Jersey Paddler employee who’s something of an SUP guru.
The activities in which one can engage with an SUP are many – and growing. Some boards are designed for riding ocean waves, while other are designed for stability in tranquil backwaters. Still others are rigged for fishing. Recently, Jersey Paddler announced that an SUP instructor will be holding yoga classes this summer, and are now selling a yoga mat that sits on the surface of the board, allowing yoga to be practiced on the water.
“She took both of her skills, put them together, and now she’s going to be doing yoga classes on the water,” MacPhee said.
For someone looking to get into SUPing for the first time, choosing a board is the first step. Foam-top boards are generally considered the safest for beginners, since they’re stable, and if you fall off, you won’t get hurt. Wider boards, just like traditional boats, are more stable than those with skinnier beams.
“The longer the board, the better the glide,” MacPhee said, but longer boards are also more physically challenging. “Most people are going with an SUV kind of board, a do-everything board – something you can take to the beach one day and then take to Forge Pond the next day.”
High-quality boards are generally priced between $800 and $1,500. Someone new to the sport will also have to buy a paddle. They start at about $100. Then there are smaller accessories like cup holders and mounts.
“You can get something very entry-level for around $700, but you’re not going to challenge yourself or progress too much,” MacPhee said.
Major SUP brands such as BIC Sport and Hobie will be featured at the Paddlesport show this year. There will also be demonstrations and lectures, including a demonstration of SUP basics in an in-show pool. Yoga and fitness techniques will also be demonstrated.
Even anglers are beginning to get in on the act, strapping coolers, rods and other equipment to SUPs.
“I was just talking to a customer who runs a local charter boat, and he told me he was fishing two miles out in the ocean and a guy comes by on a paddleboard with a cooler strapped on, catching striped bass,” said MacPhee.
Shore Getting Hooked On Kayak Fishing
The SUP craze might be challenged in ferocity only by the kayak fishing craze that has taken off over the last several years.
Kayak fishing can be performed in different ways, the store’s staff told us. Most anglers ditch the paddles themselves and purchase a kayak with a plastic drive unit and propeller built in. The drive unit is powered by peddles mounted in the kayak, making it easy for an angler to hold a fishing rod while maintaining momentum. Steering is accomplished through a rudder system.
Hobie, which also produces SUPs and traditional kayaks, has emerged as one of the strongest brands of fishing kayaks.
“They have the quickest prop on the market by far, they’re very durable and very low maintenance, even with all the moving parts,” said Ryan Melia, the Jersey Paddler’s resident kayak fishing expert.
Kayaks made by Hobie, as well as other popular fishing-inclined brands such as Wilderness Systems and Jackson (a promising newcomer to the fishing scene), come with rod holders and fishing-specific accessories. A popular accessory is a gear track, which Melia said can be used to mount a slew of additional features. It is not uncommon for kayak anglers to outfit their boat with fishfinders, baitwells and other features common to powerboats.
Melia said quality fishing kayaks start a little over $1,000 – more expensive than a bare-bones Ocean Kayak which sells for $529, but much cheaper than even a used powerboat.
While some kayak anglers do use paddles, most in the Jersey Shore area do not.
“It’s almost a necessity to have the drive in salt water with the winds and currents,” Melia said.
Melia owns an 11.5-foot Wilderness Systems fishing kayak which allows him to stand while fishing thanks to its 36-inch beam, he said. Those getting into kayak fishing for the first time should think about which accessories they’ll need, choose a kayak with a comfortable seat and price attachments. A life jacket is a necessity.
“Kayak fishing has always been there, but now it’s the companies that are taking it to the next level,” Melia said. “The improvements they’ve made in, probably, the past five years are some of the biggest we’ll ever seen in kayak fishing.”
Jersey Paddler is located at 1756 Route 88 in Brick.
The Paddlesport 2015 show will be held this Friday, March 27 from 12 noon to 9 p.m., March 28 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and March 29 from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Garden State Expo Center in Somerset. The Garden State Expo Center is located at 50 Atrium Drive, Somerset. Cost is $10 for adults and free to children below 18. For more information, visit the Jersey Paddler website.