Tim Inskeep was a peculiar site when he first moved to Nashville. Traversing Middle Tennessee’s waterways upright on a board with an oar, he appeared to confused inlanders looking like the far-flung survivor of a surfboard-canoe collision.
Fast-forward two years and stand-up paddleboarding, or SUP, is one of the fastest-growing sports in the world, and thanks to relocated enthusiasts like Inskeep, its surge has not been confined to coastal regions. A Long Beach native who moved to Hawaii at 20 and become a renowned surf instructor, Inskeep never considered shelving water sports when he land-locked himself in Tennessee. Neither should you.
SUP provides a rewarding way to beat the summer heat for anyone from a seasoned aquaphile itching for a fresh diversion to those looking for an introductory water sport. While ancient in origin, SUP’s popularity has surged in the past decade, beginning in Hawaii.
The versatile sport provides an effective full-body workout from a vantage point that allows you to more fully appreciate your surroundings. “It’s a much more comfortable perspective in every way,” Inskeep said. “You’re standing up, not lying down. Your neck isn’t constrained.” Anyone in reasonably good shape can cruise a large board on a flat lake with a few basic instructions, while advanced boards and river rapids provide challenges for those who desire them.
“My phone’s been blowing up with people wanting to do it now that the weather’s better,” said Inskeep, who works locally as an instructor and Jimmy Lewis dealer. “They come out of the water with a new outlook on life.” Those who want a session with Inskeep should contact him fast, as he’s moving to Texas soon. But while Nashville may owe its status as an inland SUP hub to Inskeep, the sport won’t be departing with him. Protégé Margaret Littman is just weeks away from launching Nashville Paddle Co., and Inskeep hopes to hand his company, SUP Guides, off to another skilled transplant soon who is moving here from Florida. Other options include Music City Water Sports, which is offering SUP rentals this season, and Hendersonville-based Craig Stand Up Paddle.
Inskeep’s top 5 Middle Tennessee SUP locations, in no particular order, are Old Hickory Lake, Percy Priest Lake, Caney Fork, Stones River and Center Hill Lake. His critical piece of buying advice is “try before you buy,” followed by his contention that your paddle is more important than your board, as it provides all your power, braking and balance. Look for something strong and lightweight from a reputable dealer like Kialoa or Quickblade.
As for the board, Inskeep said good beginner specs are 11+ feet long, 30+ inches wide and 4.5 inches thick. He also recommends finding a board with a versatile body style. A board too flat won’t cut it if you decide to try your hand at the ocean, while one too sophisticated will be too hard to cruise the lake.