Steve Scherrer started paddling a canoe in Boy Scouts at age 13 and has been addicted to paddling ever since. Kayak, canoe, cata-raft, SUP… it’s all good! Together with his wife Cindy and another partner, they owned and operated Alder Creek Kayak and Canoe in Portland, OR for nearly 20 years. Running this full-meal-deal shop taught them how to best get folks hooked on paddling. Proper gear and learning good technique is key and the American Canoe Association played an important role as the certifying body for their paddlesports. Steve is an ACA Instructor Trainer Educator in both sea kayaking and SUP. He spent the last 10 years working for Confluence Watersports as a designer and training specialist and now Steve and Cindy have opened a new chapter in their lives called Shellback Paddling Experience. This is an opportunity to share their many years of paddling experience with other SUP paddlers.
When and where did you start SUP?
June 2010. Michigan’s tip of the thumb, Lake Huron. I was a coach at a sea kayak symposium in Port Austin and there were a few demo SUP boards available. I took a mini-lesson from SUP guru Tim Truman and the rest is history! I bought a board and went home and figured it out. I took the ACA instructor certification course that fall at the ACA conference, got my instructor certification and then needed some practice students! So my first SUP lesson presentations were to my wife and brother! Since then we have traveled extensively teaching SUP students and instructors.
Which sports did you practice before? And now?
I have canoed since I was 13. I’ll probably always canoe. Mountaineering and skiing were important sports to me in my youth. Whitewater kayaking was a main focus in the 80’s and 90’s. Around the millennium it was all about sea kayaking and sailing. Cata-rafting the Grand Canyon is always going to hold a spot in my heart, and we hope to do it a few more times! The last few years have been all about SUP. We live in an area where, with the right gear, year-round paddling is possible.
How have the sports you did before helped with SUP?
It’s amazing how interconnected many sports are to one another! Controlling a vessel on the water is universal, whether it’s a whitewater squirt boat, an expedition sea kayak, an 18 foot cata-raft or a SUP surf board! It’s all about controlling Yaw, Roll and Pitch and how to do it with a paddle or oar. Building a strong foundation of core related sports is key to a well-balanced athlete. Body balance and strength are important to most sports. Water reading skills and a working knowledge of the marine environment are important skills that many SUP paddlers don’t focus on. As a sailor and sea kayaker these are key to safety and enjoyment.
What attracts you to SUP?
As a canoeist/ kayaker, for the first few years I thought it might be just a fad. Then I tried it, rather late in the game, and realized SUP as a unique paddlesport which combines a boardsport with a paddle! What attracts me, in no particular order, are: a great view, BIG time core engagement and use of legs, an open stance where you can MOVE AROUND on the board, acute balance requirements and light, simple gear that gets me out on the water. I like that it’s easy to do and challenging to master!
SUP race, SUP surf or something else?
Something else, for sure! I’ll do a BIC 1-Design if prodded but to race has never been one of my desires. I do enjoy surf and whitewater, but find that they both require a lot of falling off and getting back on the board. I wish SUP was around when I was younger! That’s a lot of work! What I really enjoy is touring. It’s a vessel and I love taking it on trips to cool watery places. Kick and glide on smooth, glassy water or chasing bumps downwind, YES! My first camping experience on a SUP was an 8-day, self-contained, solo trip 145 miles down the Columbia River from Bonneville dam to the sea. Introducing folks to this environment and sharing with them how to do it safely and efficiently is one of my greatest joys.
SUP is booming, do you think this is a fad or a change in attitudes over the long term?
Coming from my experience of more than 30 years in the paddlesport industry I can say SUP is here to stay. The SUP market is growing and I think we are just now figuring out what’s going to work well. There’s more to SUP than surf, racing and whitewater! The public is also figuring out you don’t need to be bronzed, muscle ripped, and look GREAT in a bikini to participate. BTW- I look horrible in a bikini!
Do you participate in competitions?
Nope. Don’t really like to race. Now if obstacle course races just caught on…well maybe!
American Canoe Association SUP Level 2 Instructor Trainer Educator
American Canoe Association Coastal Kayak Level 5 Instructor Trainer Educator
American Canoe Association SUP Curriculum Committee 2011- 2014
American Canoe Association Coastal Kayak Curriculum Committee 2000-Present
8-day solo, 145 mile trip Bonneville dam to Pacific Ocean – Columbia River
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