Evan Le’s first exposure to standup paddling was similar to most people’s first time trying the sport––a rental shop. The only difference is he wasn’t even looking for a SUP when he showed up.
“We were renting kayaks and they happened to be out of kayaks,” said Evan. “So I went with a paddleboard instead,”
The experience stuck with him, and although he didn’t take another paddle stroke for three years, he finally purchased his first board in March 2021. Since that purchase, standup paddling has become his favorite hobby. Evan went from a 45-pound iSUP to a high-performance 14-foot race board in only four months. After upgrading to a Black Project Hydro FlowX paddle, Evan’s progression has continued to skyrocket.
FINDING A WELCOMING AND POSITIVE COMMUNITY IN STANDUP PADDLING
As part of a Standup for the Cure event, Evan paddled 25 miles in one day on the Williamette River. He also participated in Portland’s famed Witch Paddle on Halloween—an iconic SUP event that brings out over 500 paddlers dressed as witches. However, Evan’s top achievement was winning his age division and second overall at Portland’s annual Rose City SUP Race—notably, this was only the second race of Evan’s young SUP career.
“I can’t tell you how stoked I was that day,” said Evan. “I came to just race for fun and to my surprise, I was leading the group that included some racers with far more experience and skills. I was on my Starboard All-Star with my Black Project Sonic race fin and trusty Hydro FlowX paddle. I was able to sprint faster and maintain speed for a long time. I was running out of breath at the end but no fatigue after the race which was amazing.”
For Evan, his journey in standup paddling has been the culmination of a lifelong dream.
“Growing up in South Vietnam, where the Mekong Delta is located, water is everywhere. When I was young, I had no idea what a standup paddleboard was. However, I would see adults riding bamboo rafts while standing up and I always wanted to be able to stand on water like them one day. Here I am getting into the SUP world, it is a dream come true.”
After buying his first board, Evan was scrolling through social media and found the SUP PDX community, a SUP group in Portland, Oregon. It wasn’t long before Evan showed up to a local paddling event hosted by Morgan, a Portland-based paddler who was also relatively new to the sport. It didn’t take long for Evan to realize he had found his tribe in the SUP community.
“Our Portland SUP community is so welcoming and positive,” said Evan. “I showed up on a slow and heavy iSUP, but people welcomed me in with open warms. The SUP PDX group gave me the opportunity to learn more about the sport and chances to try different boards.”
TRANSFORMATIONAL HEATH BENEFITS OF SUP
In fact, those feelings of positivity and a welcoming community are exactly what drew Morgan McCann to standup paddling. Like Evan, the pandemic was the catalyst for her to find a new sport and discover all the benefits that SUP has to offer.
“The pandemic has been hard for many of us, but being able to focus on SUP has helped me push through when the road was tough,” said Morgan. “This sport has transformed my life in every possible way. I am in the best shape I can be both physically and mentally, thanks to standup paddling.”
No matter if you’ve been paddling for 10 years or 10 days, the transformational benefits of standup paddling are undeniable. In fact, Morgan has used paddling to not only better herself, but also to inspire her young son.
“In January, I set a goal for myself to paddle 100 days in 2021 and created a SUP spot bucket list,” said Morgan. “As a single mother, being able to set an example for my son of what it means to make a commitment, set a goal, and then crush that goal has been a motivating factor to keep improving.”
With a shared love for SUP, Morgan and Evan quickly became friends and have continued to push each other to keep improving. When one of the biggest SUP races on the planet returned to Hood River, Oregon in August—the 2021 Gorge Paddle Challenge—the two friends made the journey to watch the best paddlers on the planet.
At the Gorge, their infectious positivity was welcomed by the entire SUP community. They cheered on competitors in the race, met top paddlers, and even won a pair of Sonic fins from Black Project––both signed by team paddlers Connor Baxter (@conbax) and Fiona Wylde (@fiona_wylde).
“Both Connor and Fiona are so refreshingly down to Earth and welcoming,” said Morgan. “They set the standard for bridging the gap between the professional and recreational standup worlds.”
FINDING THEIR FLOW(X)
While both paddlers started on sub-par SUP equipment, they have quickly progressed to higher performance equipment that has significantly improved their on-water experience. When both were given an opportunity to demo our Hydro FlowX paddle at the Gorge, they were blown away by its performance.
“I’ve been admiring the design aspect of the Hydro FlowX for quite some time and through my research, I felt the paddle would help me progress further in the sport,” said Evan. “The first time I took it out on choppy water, it clicked with me immediately. It was a light and very responsive paddle that saved me several times falling into the water.”
“The reduction in effort with each stroke was phenomenal,” added Morgan. “I learned pretty quickly that a paddle upgrade is crucial for anyone looking to up their SUP game, even more so than a board upgrade. For those on a budget who would like to improve without upgrading from their inflatable, the Hydro FlowX is absolutely what newer paddlers need.”
At Black Project, our goal has always been to get more people on the water and enjoying the mental and physical benefits of this incredible sport. While we understand everybody has different reasons for getting on the water, we’re here to make the experience more fulfilling and rewarding for you.
Whether you’re a first-time paddler like Evan and Morgan, or an experienced water athlete, there’s a place for you in our standup paddling community.
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We’ll see you on the water.