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Stand Up Paddle-Boarding on Salem Lake – Hal Boyle & The Permanent Vacation



Stand Up Paddle-Boarding on Salem Lake – Hal Boyle & The Permanent Vacation

By Chad Nance


“Yeah, but now I’m gettin’ old, don’t wear underwear,
I don’t go to church, and I don’t cut my hair”

– Jimmy Buffet

Early in the summer of 2014 I had the pleasure of meeting Winston-Salem’s Hal Boyle. He is a quiet man in his fifties who spent decades as a local entrepreneur working in segments of the construction industry. Hal’s uniform now-days isn’t a hard-hat and khaki pants. For Hal Boyle these are the days of cargo shorts, flip-flops and paddle boarding in the evening on Salem Lake. The construction industry makes for a hard racket and tends to chew people up… a tough way to make a living. Construction offers the kind of stress levels and physical hardship toll on a human being that can crush lesser men and women, but somehow Hal found a way to survive with his humanity and good humor intact. Now he is a local entrepreneur who has the vision that Winston-Salem’s best days are not behind us and that what is going on here culturally, economically, and politically has the potential to become something very special and unique, indeed. In all my travels over all of my life I have never met a man who understood more the importance, freedom, and peace to be found when we put on the breaks for a while and remember how to play.

on salem lake
on salem lake

To that end Hal formed a company called Triad Eco Adventures which is now offering Segway tours in downtown Winston-Salem and Old Salem and stand-up paddle boarding lessons and excursions on Belews Lake and now Salem Lake. His own home on Belewes Lake is a living, breathing monument to dedicated relaxation and play with a full, regulation beach volley ball court, a speed boat, wave runners, horseshoe pits, barbeque patios and stand-up paddle boards. It was on July 4th out at Hal’s place that I first became addicted to the mellow and invigorating sport of stand-up paddle boarding.

I surfed some, body boarded more, and beat myself up with asphalt and a skateboard when I was a kid. Stand-up paddle boarding is nothing like that stuff in any way. It’s a long game and not for the action junkies and Red Bull addicts. Stand-up Paddle boarding is not, however, a sport for the weak or the meek. Participants should be a decent physical condition and possess a goodly amount of endurance. You also need to be mentally capable of shutting down the micro-circuits long enough to allow the water, the board, your paddle, and the sky-line to become your only concerns.

The stand-up Paddle Board’s origins are in Port Macquarie, New South Wales sometime around 1912. The sport began with an unknown local who got the idea in his head of catching and riding the monster waves to be enjoyed in the Southern Pacific. Through trial and error he soon realized that his uncle’s open canoe wasn’t going to cut it because the chop inherent in the waves there ended up filling up the canoe’s dugout. This led the crafting of a “Surf Ski”. The “ski” was made of wood, hollow, and paddled with a twin blade paddle from a sitting position much like a Kayak. Thrill seekers and surfers in Australia began to use the Surf Skis to get out further and catch bigger waves. It was there that the idea of standing was added to the sport.

duke  kahanamoku
duke kahanamoku on a Surf Ski

Surfing history then records that a Surf Ski made it into the hands of the legendary Olympic swimmer and surfer Duke Paoa Kahinu Mokoe Hulikohola Kahanamoku when he was given on by an Australian surfing team in 1939. The activity remained in the background and would take until 2005 to begin to become truly popular an accessible as a sport. That was also when it moved from the beaches to America’s lakes and rivers as well.

The first “modern” surfer to bring the sport to the mainland United States was Vietnam vet and surfer Rick Thomas. Custom surf board shaper Jimmy Lewis, created one of the first modern production boards that he called the All Around.

Two other legendary surfers, Laird Hamilton and Dave Kalama, developed stand-up paddle surfing as a 21st Century water sport providing guidelines and pushing innovation in both technique and equipment manufacturing.

Deb and Warren Thomas, owners of Standup Paddle Sports and of Santa Barbara, California, pioneered and helped establish the sport and industry in California. They brought the first production stand up paddle boards to market with a Maui surfboard shaper Sean Ordonez in 2006. The Thomas’ opened the first retail store dedicated to stand-up paddle boarding on the mainland in 2007. On August 8, 2007, on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe in Tahoe City, California, the first stand up paddle board race was held. In a seven-mile race, 34 male and female competitors competed. This was the beginning of the Ta-Hoe Nalu Paddle Festival. The sport is versatile, able to be enjoyed in a variety of ways, and is on the innovative edge of ecologically friendly was to enjoy the outdoors. A paddle board will never leak gasoline into a lake or river. There will be no emissions, no exhaust, and the only energy used to enjoy the sport comes from the human being standing on it.

Hal took me out with the first group of SUP boarders  onto Salem Lake. There were six of us along with Hal heading out from the small “beach” there then making a loop that took us across the open water of the lake and underneath Interstate 40 before we turned around and came back. Hal’s enthusiasm for the sport is tempered by his natural caution and quiet humility. When he gets excited, gets out on the water, and takes out his waterproof camera to take a picture his absolute joy at the whole enterprise is contagious.

Standing and balancing on the 9 foot long boards is not incredibly difficult, nor does it require any spectacular balance like that of a professional gymnast or a wire-walker. The effort to stay balanced while paddling and controlling the board is probably one of the best “core” workouts available, though. That coupled with the aerobic workout just from the act of paddling itself makes stand-up paddle boarding a serious consideration for fitness enthusiast who are tired of the spin-classes, aerobics, or yoga.

salem lake
salem lake

The basic paddling technique is a simple one that is modeled on Kayak and canoe techniques. It is easy to teach a first-timer enough to be able to function with more experienced paddlers without spending too much time just on instruction.

Like yoga, there is a meditative aspect to paddle boarding that may be the sports true value. There is quiet to be found out on the water and away from the phone and computer. Sound is simply the paddle dipping into the water, the board gliding across the surface, and the quiet sounds of the water moving around on our small lake. There is a peace in the middle of the board when you’re riding balanced, focused, and relaxed.

Looping out under Interstate 40 with cars sitting in rush hour traffic above us trying to just get home, it was easy to feel lucky while I was paddling around beneath them free to move about, happy to be outdoors in the sun, and filled with the kind of healthy rush that comes with real physical exertion. On the way across Salem Lake every bit of stress I’d brought with me began to peel off of me like dead skin and for the first time in a long time I felt truly relaxed and quiet. That is the feeling that will get me back on the water with Hal. Maybe there is something about the harmony found between water, paddles, body, and board that ‘ol Hal has tapped into… the gentle fuel of Hal Boyle’s permanent vacation.


You can find out how to get out on the water yourself HERE.


salem lake
salem lake





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