Paddleboard yoga was one of the events featured Saturday at Howard Prairie Reservoir, where Paddlefest 2013, organized by Northwest Outdoor Store, drew more than 200 people. - Julia Moore

Paddlefest brings enthusiasts out on the woodwork

With a name like stand-up paddleboard yoga, listening to one hand clapping while being spanked may come to mind.

But it is none of the above, at least not when it came to stand-up paddleboard yoga offered during Paddlefest 2013 at Howard Prairie Lake on Saturday.

"A lot of people who are really outdoorsy don't want to try yoga indoors, so this is a nice way to get them to try it," observed yoga instructor Sofia Onstad of Stand Up Ashland, a local company offering everything conceivable on a paddleboard, from tours to yoga.

She had just spent an hour on the water taking half a dozen people on stand-up paddleboards through the yoga paces.

The festival brought more than 200 people to the mountain reservoir, from veteran watercraft paddlers of all sorts to people wanting to try their hand at some of the newest creations.

In addition to the paddleboards, human-powered watercraft included kayaks. All the equipment was free to try for interested participants.

"We've never had a paddle festival — it was long overdue," said Scott Keith, owner of the Northwest Outdoor Store in Medford and one of the principal organizers of the event.

"We needed something like this for the whole paddling community to come together on the water," he added. "It's a hoot. It's a great time, a fun time."

Some of the boards and paddles are made in the Rogue Valley, he said.

"The boards are usually a little longer and a little wider than a surf board but it is the same idea," he said. "Anywhere you have a flat body of water, you can use a stand-up paddleboard."

In addition to trying out new gear, participants had a chance to meet others in the paddling community, Keith said.

Retired lawyer John Ferris of Ashland dropped by for a little fly-fishing from a kayak propelled by pedal power instead of the traditional paddle.

"With this propulsion, pedaling with your feet, your hands are free to cast," said the avid kayaker. "It's great. I've kayaked quite a bit with paddles. I'll probably end up getting one of these."

Did he catch anything?

"I got one bite but didn't get it in," he said.

Applegate Valley resident Randy Bogardus, 66, easily won the stand-up paddleboard race using a stand-up board the former cabinet maker designed and built.

"Wood is good," he said of what he figures was the first official stand-up paddleboard race in Jackson County.

He crossed the finish line of the roughly one-mile race in 13.13 minutes.

"I designed this one specifically for Applegate Lake," he said after catching his breath. "It's hollow."

The board is built of paulownia, also known as Chinese empress, a tree native to southwest China.

"It is considered a hardwood, although softer than other hardwood," he said. "It is almost as light as balsam wood but it has the highest weight-to-strength ratio of any commercially available wood.

"It is wonderful wood to work with," he added. "It sands well, machines well."

He sells kits but has been known to barter in exchange for a finished board, which he figures are labors of love that take 250 hours to complete.

"I just traded my oral surgeon two dental implants for a board," he said, adding, "That was a $15,000 payday on that one."

Expert kayaker Oliver Fix, 40, of Ashland, who won a gold medal for his native Germany as a slalom canoer in the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, was impressed by the waterborne festival.

"This is wonderful seeing the community come together in the paddle sports," he observed. "We are in nature, and there is no engine involved. They are all moving on their own power. It's great to see."

As for yoga on a stand-up paddleboard, Matt Sterling of Stand Up Ashland said it is a pleasant experience.

"It is pretty soothing," he said. "The motion is a little bit different. But it is a great time. It's a healthy alternative to being indoors in a studio all day."

Yoga instructor Onstad agreed.

"One of the big concepts behind doing yoga is being really balanced and present," she said. "You just bring that same energy out to the paddleboards.

"Instead of having solid earth to stand on, you are floating around," she added. "But it actually helps tune you in a little more and focus on what you are doing."

Don't worry if you fall off, she said, noting that yoga is about breathing deeply, being present, working within your own limitations and bettering yourself.

"I fell off yesterday," she said. "It's all part of the fun."

The festival was organized by the Jackson County Parks Department, Howard Prairie Resort and local paddling businesses and clubs.

Planning is already under way for Paddlefest 2014.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or email him at

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