State regulations leave local paddleboarding enthusiasts high and dry

Jun. 22, 2013 @ 03:00 PM

For High Point resident Kris See, peaceful outings on Oak Hollow Lake on his stand-up paddleboard were the perfect way to get some exercise while enjoying his surroundings.
Unlike other water sports that require some degree of skill, such as kayaking, paddleboarding can be done with relative ease by simply standing on an oversized surf board and using a long-handled paddle to propel through the water. See said this suited him fine.
“Being 45 years old with multiple years in the Coast Guard, my knees are kind of shot, so that to me was a kind of low-impact but heavy and intense workout, because I could paddle as hard as I wanted,” said See, who took to the water year-round, almost every weekend. “I didn’t have to buy a gym membership.”
Just as the water was getting warm enough this spring for him to venture on to the lake without his wetsuit, See got some disappointing news: Paddleboarding is no longer allowed on Oak Hollow or High Point City Lake because the activity has not been approved by state regulators.
Any recreational activity on a reservoir used to supply public drinking water — which both High Point lakes are — has to be reviewed and approved by the N.C. Commission for Public Health.
Paddleboarding is a relatively recent sport, and some local governments, including High Point, have not gotten specific approval for it.
Parks and Recreation Director Allen Oliver said city officials thought paddleboarding was covered under the approvals the state granted years ago that allow motorized boating and water skiing on the lakes.
“It was really picking up in popularity; more amd more people were doing it,” said Oliver. “It’s nonmotorized. We didn’t see a big issue with it, but the state feels like we have to make sure it’s not going to have an adverse effect on our water supply.”
The city is working to get paddleboarding permitted, but by the time this occurs, summer may be history.
“To me, it seems like a lot of red tape, and a bit unfair,” See said. “Having been in the Coast Guard, I understand regulations and boating safety, but this really seems out of place.”
State regulators apparently got wind of High Point’s allowance of paddleboarding when they were going through the process of getting it approved for Greensboro’s lakes.
Since paddleboarding can involve human contact with the water, there is the potential for the water’s cleanliness to be impacted from particles or other matter that come off people or clothing, according to Sarah Young, spokeswoman for the N.C. Division of Water Resources.
“Since it is a drinking-water supply, there’s very stringent standards when it comes to stuff like that,” said Young.
See said he’s baffled that paddleboarding isn’t allowed on the city’s lakes while power boating, water skiing, canoeing and kayaking are. (Swimming is not permitted in either lake.)
He pointed out that paddleboarding produces no greenhouse gas emissions, unlike motorized boats. It creates minimal noise and has become popular, in part, because it provides opportunities for social interaction, as groups can paddle together.
A.B. Henley of High Point said he bought a paddleboard from a friend who started a paddleboard company and “once I started, I just really became a junky on it.” Henley frequented Oak Hollow Lake and has been in a few paddleboard races. He’s been going to Badin Lake, about an hour’s drive from High Point, to paddleboard lately, including a 90-minute outing Friday morning.
“I don’t think I touched the water the whole time I was out there, other than a little bit of it splashing on to my feet. So, it’s about as eco-friendly or green an activity as you can possibly introduce to the lake,” said Henley. “Because it’s a water supply, it’s going be bureauracy and policy-driven, and I get that. We would just like to go back to doing what we were doing.”
Oliver said the city is working to achieve this.
The state has permitted the city to allow paddleboarding on the lakes on four days in late June and early July. Water samples will be gathered after each event and if they test OK, the city will seek the approval of the state health commission to allow paddleboarding to resume. The commission doesn’t meet until August. Local paddleboarders say they fear summer will be over by the time a ruling is issued.   
“It’s a great sport, and we’ve got tons and tons of people that are doing paddleboarding,” said Oliver. “We want to encourage it.”