"Riding a stand-up board through Class II rapids is like taking a kayak through Class V water," said Jayann Jones, a 17-year rafting guide for Songer/Adventures on the Gorge, who has ridden a SUP through the lower New River Gorge, home of the New's biggest and baddest whitewater.
"It adds a whole new level of adrenalin to things," she said. "I think the whitewater aspect of stand-up paddleboarding is what will really take off around here."
Standing waves in the Gorge make it possible for downriver SUP riders to stop and surf, much like their ocean-going brethren.
"It's as close as you can come to surfing in an ocean in West Virginia," said Jones.
Seiler said those who take up the sport should expect to spend about $1,000 for a board and paddle.
According to the stand-up paddleboarding website Supglobal.com, the sport originated on Oahu's Waikiki Beach in the early 1960s, when youthful entrepreneurs would stand atop long surfboards and use outrigger paddles to reach vantage points for photographing tourists as they learned to surf.
In the early 2000s, a number of top competitive surfers used SUP as an alternative way to train when the surf was down. Eventually, they organized SUP races, and paddleboards gradually began to appear in harbors, lakes and rivers.
Thursday's competition at Fayette Station included two races -- an upstream attainment race over mostly flat water to Thread the Needle Rocks (a small Class I rapid) and back, and a two-mile downriver race through three rapids, including Class III-IV Fayette Station.
"As far as we know, ours is the first attainment race for paddleboards to take place anywhere," said Seiler, who was the first woman across the finish line for that event, as well as for the downriver SUP race -- West Virginia's first.
Michael Taveres of Richmond, Va., finished first among 20 SUP racers in the upstream event, and also took top honors in the downriver race.
Reach Rick Steelhammer at rsteelham...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5169.