Different strokes for paddling folks

Jeff Vallejo paddleboards through the Oak Harbor Marina with his dog Jake on July 8, 2013. Vallejo recently opened a business to teach stand up paddleboarding. - Ron Newberry / Whidbey News-Times
Jeff Vallejo paddleboards through the Oak Harbor Marina with his dog Jake on July 8, 2013. Vallejo recently opened a business to teach stand up paddleboarding.
— image credit: Ron Newberry / Whidbey News-Times

Jeff Vallejo grew up in central California and remembers taking weekend road trips to the coast to ride the surf on a bodyboard.

After moving to Oak Harbor, he surveyed the water and noticed something was missing.

Human activity.

“Our water is like a playground,” Vallejo said. “I don’t feel like our community really enjoys it the way it is now. I’m pretty excited about bringing this to Oak Harbor.”

Vallejo and his wife Kara have opened a business in Oak Harbor aimed at teaching locals everything they want to know about a surface water sport that is growing in popularity.

Vallejo recently got his certification from the World Paddle Association to teach stand up paddleboarding. He got his first board in the spring and says he’s proof of the personal benefits.

“I lost 30 pounds in four months from paddleboarding,” Vallejo said. “It’s a full-body workout.”

Stand up paddleboarding, like the name suggests, involves a board and a paddle.

But instead of trying to hang 10 on some gnarly waves, paddleboarders stand upright or kneel while paddling across calmer waters.

“It looks harder than it really is,” Vallejo said. “Any age can do it.”

Stand up paddleboarding is a fast growing sport and derivative of traditional paddleboarding, which involves kneeling or laying down on the board and paddling with one’s hands.

Traditional paddleboarding dates back centuries to Polynesia, while the stand-up form got started in the 1960s but didn’t spread globally in popularity until the past decade.

Vallejo, 29, is operating his business, which is called HarborSUP, from the Oak Harbor Marina. He offers paddleboarding lessons Friday evenings and all day on Saturdays and Sundays.

The cost for a 90-minute lesson is $55 for one person, and $30 for each additional person for a group lesson. The price includes equipment, wetsuit and life jacket.

Although Vallejo also rents and sells boards, he requires a lesson for those new to the sport. Reservations may be made by calling Vallejo at 360-632-1601. Lesson times are listed on the website at

Vallejo would like to open his own paddleboarding shop in town in the fall, but in the meantime operates his business from the marina.

Rhonda Severns, merchant liaison for the city of Oak Harbor, said she’s talked to Vallejo about the idea of holding a paddleboard festival in the city next year.

Vallejo’s current focus, however, is to get Oak Harbor residents’ feet wet first.

He taught his first lessons last weekend and will continue through the summer.

In one group lesson, two students were on their feet almost immediately while another was more comfortable kneeling.

The boards are light yet enormous at roughly 11 feet long and 3 feet wide. Vallejo often is seen paddleboarding through the harbor with his dog Jake sitting on the front of the board.

“By standing on the board, you strengthen your feet and you strengthen your legs,” Vallejo said. “I’ve had back issues since I was a kid. By getting on the board and just stretching and working on the paddleboard, it started strengthening the lower back muscles and lower abs that sort of support everything else. It’s definitely a core workout.

“There’s also something about being on the water. I’ve been here 12 years. I have nothing against kayaking, but this has a surfing style to it. You are standing above the water and you can see everything.”

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