Growing up in a small town, Bronwyn spent her days outside and by the water. Whether stomping by the creek or floating down whitewater, the outside made her happy. Family vacations were spent exploring secluded barrier islands in the Chesapeake Bay, where she learned to swim and spent countless hours fishing with her dad. These early experiences fueled her love of paddling, exploration and adventure.
Now, at home on the James River, stand up paddleboarding is her vehicle of choice. She spends her time now riding downriver over class I-IV whitewater, guiding Eco Tours, and leading SUP yoga classes. She has a passion for not only pushing her own limits on a board, but also introducing others to paddleboarding. In her spare time, she explores rivers across the east coast, including the New River Gorge, the Maury and the Appomattox. More importantly, she is bringing the sport to the next generation of paddlers. Her own kids have spent hours on paddleboarders and she hopes to expand this love of paddling to kids across the city. She is always happiest with a paddle in her hands and a board under feet.
When and where did you start SUP ?
I started paddle boarding in 2010 on the Atlantic in Virginia Beach. I had been kayaking for years, exploring different waterways and styles of paddling, but that year paddling started to feel stale. I needed something new. I saw an advertisement for SUP and decided to give it a try. Without ever having stood on a SUP before, I bought my first board. I took me about fifteen minutes before I even garnered the nerve to stand, but after I did there was this "Ahhh Haa" moment. I’ve never looked back.
Which sports did you practice before? And now?
I played a lot of sports growing up. It took a lot to keep me busy and entertained as a kid, so my mom made sure I always participated in something. I was mostly drawn to ballet, soccer, and softball, though. Now, I practice yoga, workout at the gym, ride bikes, play backyard soccer with my kids, and of course paddleboard.
How have the sports you did before helped with SUP?
While all sports require different muscles and skills, they all contributed to my development as a water athlete. Yoga has helped with my balance on the board. It doesn’t seem to hard to stand down rapids when you’ve done headstands on a paddleboard. Soccer helped with footwork, allowing me to move fluidly around the board. Softball gave me the arm and back strength to paddle hard, and ballet helped me make it look effortless.
What attracts you to SUP?
When I stand next to water, I stare out and feel overwhelmed by the need to paddle. I prefer SUP due to its versatility. Cruising along in flatwater, I can stand, kneel, sit down or even have a picnic. It's like my own floating island. When I’m looking for an adrenaline rush, I run the local whitewater or head to the ocean for a downwinder or a surf sesh. Some days, my yoga practice slows me down and reconnects me with nature and myself. With the right board you can paddle anything!
SUP race, SUP surf or something else?
I’m a “Jackie” of all trades, but a master of none. Whether it's whitewater, flatwater, surf or racing, I love and do it all. I'm not the best at anything, but I have fun at everything!
SUP is booming, do you think this is a fad or a change in attitudes over the long term?
The SUP industry is definitely growing and expanding. Every year, more and more first timers take our classes and tours at Riverside Outfitters. We offer paddleboard camps for kids and downriver trips for teens up, which has helped expand the community in and around RVA. These same programs are popping up all over the USA. It isn’t just here, though. Globally, we are seeing paddleboarders push the boundaries of what we thought was possible, running some of the biggest water in the world and dropping over bigger and bigger falls. The sport has evolved so much in a short period of time. People no longer stop me and ask "What is that?” Now, they stop and tell me their favorite paddleboarding stories or tell me they've always wanted to try! It's been a lot of fun watching this progression. This definitely isn’t a fad.
Do you participate in competitions?
Races are fun and I try to hit a couple every year. It's a great workout and opportunity to push my limits, raise money for a good cause, catch up with old friends, and make new ones. The camaraderie during races is one of my favorite parts, as the racers cheer each other on during the race. It's the definition of friendly competition and this community is what helps push you to the finish line!