CORNELIUS – My Aloha Paddle and Surf called even greater attention to stand up paddleboarding by offering the first World Paddle Association-sanctioned race in Lake Norman on May 10.

The business, with locations in Cornelius and Mooresville, organized the Stand Up for the Catawba event, which included elite races spanning 6.3 miles and recreational races of 3 miles on Lake Norman, starting at Port City Club. It also featured hula dancers and other demonstrations.

My Aloha has held the races since 2011, but this is the first time they were WPA-sanctioned. All money raised during the event benefited the Catawba Riverkeeper and the Charlotte Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, which work to protect the waterways.

“We want to bring awareness about paddleboard and the charities,” said My Aloha owner and race organizer Rob Bennett. “Stand up paddleboarding is not just recreational, they are looking for it to be an Olympic sport in 2020.”

A few more than 90 people participated at the event, coming from throughout North Carolina and neighboring states. Bennett said it was a good number of participants for the first year, though next year he expects more than 200 paddlers.

According to posted race results, top finishers for the elite races were Corey Taylor, Justin Shaay and Mac Barnhardt. The top female in the elite races was April Zilg. Winning the recreational race were Ben Stewart, Jeff London and Susan Ballenger. 

Ballenger came from Isle of Ponds to participate in the recreational competition, saying it was a different experience being on the lake versus the beach.

“It’s something so intense and so calming,” she said of the sport. “It’s dancing on the water.”

Stand up paddleboarding originated in Hawaii and is an offshoot of surfing. Boards come in different sizes and shapes. Chuck Anderson, of Concord, was using an inflatable board, which works, but isn’t for serious competitions, he said. Boards can be rounded or pointed at the end, which aids in cutting through water faster.

Michael Lindsey, chairman of the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation board, said paddleboarding is something he enjoys doing with his family on early Saturday mornings when it isn’t so hot and there aren’t as many waves.

“A friend of mine introduced us to paddleboarding, and I got on and knew in a minute and a half it was going to be good,” he said, adding “The best way to get started is to rent a board and just do it.”

Lindsey said it’s a full-body workout, but can be as strenuous or as easy as a person makes it.

Dawn Jeffer, of Mooresville, agreed.

“It’s such a core and arm workout – more than kayaking,” she said, adding balance is also a huge component. “You have to concentrate to stay on the board, but it’s such an adrenaline rush.”

Paddleboarding is commonly a more individual sport, Jeffer said. Dan West, of Cornelius, said while he goes without other people, he always has a partner on board – his dog, Dakota.

“She hopped on board and has been doing it ever since,” he said.

This was their first race, though the pair can be seen cruising along the coves of Lake Norman in the early mornings.

“It’s a different perspective of the lake than when you are speeding by in a boat,” he said. “It’s very relaxing on a Sunday. I let my mind wonder.”