Surfing with a Paddle

San Jose lake is the newest destination for Hawaiian import.

By Matt Baume
|  Tuesday, Aug 10, 2010  |  Updated 4:02 PM PDT
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Physics of Surfing

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MALIBU, CA - AUGUST 04: (EXCLUSIVE ACCESS) Big wave surfer Laird Hamilton paddle boards at the premiere party for the documentary "Path of Purpose" at Paradise Cove on August 4, 2007 in Malibu, California. (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images)

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We know what you're thinking: whose idea was it to combine surfing and canoeing?

No body's really sure who invented the Hawaiian sport, known there as Hoe he'e nalu and in California as "stand up paddling." But now Bay Area residents have an ideal location to try it out.

Water World in Vasona Park in Los Gatos just bought a fleet of boards and paddles for aspiring stand-up paddlers. Because the lake is so calm and boats are banned, it's a perfect place to develop your sea legs.

It's not too hard to learn: just bend your legs, find your center of gravity, and then work up a paddling rhythm. Once you get the hang of it on calm water like Vasona Lake, you'll be ready to tackle waves. And because the sport involves careful balancing, paddlers get a strong core workout.

Since its introduction to California ten years ago, the sport's really taken off with contests, specialized shops, and meet ups. There's even a stand-up paddle surfing magazine. And newcomers needn't worry: the Stand Up Paddle Board Company in Santa Cruz is only too happy to teach you how to cruise along in the water like you were born and raised in Hawaii.

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