Kyle Jensen / The Record — Aja Stewart paddles out into Puget Sound to practice yoga and meditate.

Paddleboarding: a stand-up way to see Whidbey’s waters

Whidbey Island resident Jake Stewart used to drop and collect his crab pots from a boat.

Looking for a way to collect his pots with less effort, he started doing it from a stand-up paddleboard.

“I used to use a boat to grab my crab pots, but it took a lot of time to wait in line at the boat launch and then gas it up,” Stewart said.

“I then saw a friend of mine use his paddleboard to collect his pots, and I had never seen that. You don’t need a trailer, you don’t use gas and you can fit up to three crab pots on the board.”

“It’s so much more efficient.”

Stewart, who owns and operates Sweetwater Farm with his wife, Aja Stewart, often heads out on the water in overalls, his typical work attire.

Efficiency is what led him to start using a board over a boat in the first place; by the time boaters are finally in the water, Stewart said he’s already on his way back with his pots.

“It’s practical and environmentally-friendly, and saving resources is really appealing to me,” Stewart said. “Every time I’m out there, people are curious and start asking me questions.”

Stewart got into paddleboarding while living in Austin, Texas, a city where paddlers are regularly seen gliding across the river that runs through town. When he moved up to Whidbey Island with his family to start a farm, he said he noticed plenty of kayakers, but a lack of stand-up paddleboards.

Curious residents who see him on his board regularly ask about paddling and how he uses it.

Stewart isn’t the only one in his family utilizing stand-up paddleboards in a novel way.

On many an early morning, near Possession Beach Waterfront Park, visitors may spot someone contorting their body as they seemingly stand on water. It’s Stewart’s wife, holding yoga poses in Puget Sound atop a stand-up paddleboard.

Aja Stewart has taken her board out “about four days a week” as the sun rises and fog dissipates. The activity started as early morning paddling for a core and leg workout, but quickly turned into something more as she realized the board gives her a large enough platform to hold poses.

There’s also the added difficulty of trying to balance on the board.

Her morning yoga sessions have a meditative aspect. She describes the activity as “spellbinding,” one that puts her in touch with her surroundings. Aja Stewart said she feels “one with nature.”

“That’s been my addiction this summer,” she said. “I often go out on my own for a workout, and it always becomes a spiritual and meditative practice with yoga moves sprinkled throughout the session.”

Aja Stewart is hoping to get more people out on the water with her. She’s looking into buying more paddleboards by next spring so she can host sunrise yoga sessions.

According to Jeff Jacobsen, part owner of Whidbey Island Kayaking, there seems to be a rise in demand for paddleboard rentals on Whidbey. While kayaking still reigns supreme, Jacobsen said paddleboards are often completely rented out by groups.

The business was spurred to purchase more paddleboards.

“In the three years we’ve owned the company, we’ve increased the number of stand-up paddleboards from five to eight after increased usage,” Jacobsen said. “It’s great for hot weather, whenever you’d like to take a dip, and a different kind of workout from kayaking.”

The Stewarts hope to see a few more paddlers on the water in the coming years. While they say gliding across the river in Texas is what initially sparked their interest, they agree it’s hard to beat paddling in Puget Sound.

“We both see it as a form of meditation in a way, since you find balance with the board and the water,” Jake Stewart said.

“It’s a different way to see and experience Whidbey.”

Justin Burnett / The Record — Clinton resident Jake Stewart paddles back to shore after retrieving his crab pot.

Justin Burnett / The Record — Clinton resident Jake Stewart paddles back to shore after retrieving his crab pot.

Justin Burnett / The Record — Stewart chose to drop and collect his crab pots with a paddleboard after realizing it was quicker and more environmentally friendly.

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