Melissa Finkelstein chills on her stand-up paddleboard

Melissa Finkelstein always loved being on the water, but it wasn’t until cabin fever set in months into the pandemic that she bought her own inflatable stand-up paddleboard, or SUP.
Melissa Finkelstein standing on a paddleboard on Monona Bay
Photo by Nikki Hansen
Melissa Finkelstein

Melissa Finkelstein always loved being on the water, but it wasn’t until cabin fever set in months into the pandemic that she bought her own inflatable stand-up paddleboard, or SUP.

It takes her 12 minutes to leave her apartment, inflate her board and walk to Monona Bay, so she was on the lake all summer with almost daily paddles — sometimes even spending six or seven hours on her board on the weekends.

“I took full advantage,” Finkelstein says. “I got 100% of my money’s worth over the summer. I literally went out as often as I could.”

Finkelstein had stand-up paddleboarded before purchasing her own board, and had also borrowed from friends, but she figured it would be easier to have her own. Since she lives in a studio apartment, storage was a concern. An inflatable board ended up being the solution, as it can fit into a backpack and is easy to transport. “I can take mine anywhere,” she says. “I can toss it in my car. I can keep it in my closet.”

While there is the risk of an inflatable board becoming punctured, it’s less expensive than a traditional SUP.

Monona Bay is Finkelstein’s favorite place to paddle since she’s protected from waves and boats. Because she picked up the sport just last year, she hasn’t explored many other areas yet.

“I stayed where I was comfortable last summer while I was getting acclimated to paddling and getting used to the lakes and everything else, so now this summer I’m really looking forward to branching out a little bit more,” Finkelstein says.

A morning person, Finkelstein prefers going out during sunrise when it’s less busy. She finds it to be the best way to start her day.

Stand-up paddleboarding is also a good core workout. Finkelstein teaches fitness classes in addition to working for the state government. On her really long paddles, it’s less about paddling the whole time and more about enjoying the water and the view. Sometimes she’ll just lie on her board, enjoy the sunshine and hang out in the middle of the lake.

“Being on the lakes gives you such a different perspective of the city and the skyline along John Nolen Drive,” Finkelstein says. “You can see it while you’re on the lake and it’s such a different, beautiful angle of the city that you live in.”

For newcomers to stand-up paddleboarding, Finkelstein has a few suggestions:

  • Folks can be intimidated by standing on the board, so she recommends sitting down or kneeling when you’re first starting. “Once you do it, it’s a lot less scary than I think people assume that it is,” she says.
  • Go out on a day that isn’t too windy.Bring a life jacket, as they’re required on all lakes. Dry bags are also a must since you’ll get a bit more wet on a paddleboard as opposed to an enclosed watercraft.
  • If you’re planning to relax on your board while on the lake, Finkelstein suggests bringing a waterproof cooler with snacks and drinks, sunscreen and a hat. Finkelstein also has a suction cup holder so her drink won’t spill when the board wobbles.
  • Monona Bay is a great place for beginners to start since it’s less busy compared to Lake Monona or Lake Mendota. Wingra Creek is also more secluded.
  • For those interested in taking up the hobby and possibly buying a board, it may be worthwhile to test both regular and inflatable models. Try a rental at several area locations.

Click here for more paddling.

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