Written by: Connor Davis | Photography by: Kimberly Dam
On the northeastern point of Harbor Island, there is a small alcove filled with kayaks, paddleboards, bicycles, and even 6-person canoes. This treasure trove of water vessels is owned and maintained by Wrightsville SUP, a local water sports equipment rental company about to start its seventh summer. Offering everything from lessons and guided tours to weekly rentals, Wrightsville SUP has something for every customer, any age, shape, or size. The owner, Jarrod Covington, a UNCW graduate and general water enthusiast, has grown this business from a small mobile service with only “seven to eight boards and kayaks, lifejackets, and paddles” to an impressive collection operating from its own pier. Still modest in its roots, Jarrod’s business is casual, the instructors are friendly, and even the customers stop to say hello.
Before we spoke about the services Wrightsville SUP offers, I wanted to get some basic questions answered: Did I need formal lessons? What’s the best weather to do this in? What time of day is the best for paddle boarding? Luckily for me, Jarrod was more than happy to answer all of my questions.
Lessons are offered for those that are either just starting out, as well as, more advanced lessons for those that want to expand their level of expertise. The best weather varies by customer, some like strong winds to help with their resistance training while others like to glide across mirrors of calm water. And as far as the time of day goes, Jarrod recommends coming as early as you can. There’s less boat traffic, the sunlight isn’t harsh yet, and the animals are still out along the water.
To encourage heading out early, they offer sunrise sessions where at least three times a week they lead a group out around 5:30 in the morning to watch the sunrise. This is a favorite of early-risers. The quiet of the morning hours, mixed with the calm of nature is a perfect way to start the day. But if you’re like me, and don’t know what the world is like before 10 a.m., SUP also offers a night session for its more nocturnal customer base. During the summer, they have scheduled sessions on Tuesdays and Saturdays, leaving fifteen minutes before sunset to start you off with a beautiful view before an exciting exploration.
For those that are just interested in getting away from the city-sights for a little while, there are guided ecotours and yoga classes available for booking on their website. The ecotour is one of Jarrod’s favorites, because you “get to know and learn what’s around you,” pointing out the fiddler crabs on the sand in front of us, which I had previously thought were just large clods of sand. He’s seen heron’s nests, terrapins, manatees, and even spotted sea rays on his tours, but he says the takeaway is learning how the ecosystem interacts around you and being more aware of nature.
On a more competitive side, Wrightsville SUP also has two OC6’s—or six-man outrigger canoes—available for rent with a steersman provided by the company. These canoes rely on teamwork and synchronicity for speed.
The other fitness services provided by Wrightsville SUP can be completed in just about any weather. Customers have access to the beaches of surrounding islands that can be used for body-weight workouts, or they can use sandbags where available.
Aside from their location-based lessons, sunrise and night sessions, and fitness services, SUP will also deliver equipment, free of charge, anywhere in the surrounding area. From Figure Eight Island to topsail, even Ocean Isle and below they’ll bring you anything they have, including the much sought after sunfish. They offer hourly, one-day, three-day, and weekly rentals, perfect for families or other groups with their own locations.
Wrightsville SUP can provide something for every type of person from early birds to night owls and fitness gurus to nature lovers. As long as you’re willing to learn they’re more than happy to help you. Now there is only one question left to answer: When are you going to try it?