STAND-UP PADDLEBOARDING: Popular water sport gains traction in Livingston and on Yellowstone River

Samantha Hill
Enterprise photo by Hunter D'Antuono

On the quiet Sacajawea Park Lagoon, with temperatures reaching into the 90s, a sea of paddleboarders leisurely row their vessels nowhere in particular.

Paddleboarding, which originated in Hawaii, combines the balance of standing on a board with using one’s core strength to paddle through a body of water. 

A Livingston-based business, SUP Montana — SUP stands for “stand-up paddleboarding” —  has recently opened with the idea of this sport in mind. Beth O’Neill and Siobhan Green, co-owners of the company, rent paddleboards for a full or half day. 

Her business provides a lightweight backpack that contains a blow-up paddleboard, a pump and a life jacket. In total, it weighs about 32 pounds. 

When completely full of air, the paddleboards are about 10 feet, 6 inches long and can carry about 350 pounds. O’Neill said just about anyone can get on this size of board, even kids as young as 10, as long as their parents are comfortable with it. 

 After pumping up the vessel, boarders need to make sure their paddle is the right length. O’Neill said the best way of doing this is to put it next to you, reach up your arms as far as they can go, and that will be the right length. 

Once all the equipment is ready, it is time to get in the water. O’Neill said there are multiple ways to get on the board based on your comfort level. Some get on by jumping on from the dock, while others choose to push off from a beach. 

“I was afraid my first time just jumping on it so I used the beach to launch,” O’Neill said. 

But she warns it is best to have the fin at the bottom of the board in the water because it can get caught on rocks. 

“The only time I ever fallen off my board is by getting (the fin) caught on the beach,” O’Neill said. 

People participating in paddleboarding usually begin the sport on slow-moving water, such as a lagoon, lake or pond, but after getting more acquainted with the boarding, people can move on to rivers and streams. 

 Paddleboarding on a river, which is similar to kayaking, can come with its own set of instructions. O’Neill feels guidelines for paddleboarding on rivers should be stricter than those for lakes.

“I want to make sure they have their own helmet before I let them out on the river,” she said.

O’Neill said her company has been working closely with boaters in the area to make sure everyone can enjoy the river together. 

“It seems like paddleboarders can be loud and make big shadows that scare off fish, so we make sure everyone is getting along,” she said. 

With the fast moving current of a river, O’Neill added a detachable line to the board for safety and convenience. A person can hook themselves to the board with the line, making it easier to retrieve the board if one falls off, but the line can detach if a person is dragged beneath the water. 

“This was a safety feature we got after-market because it is such a great safety feature,” O’Neill said. 

O’Neill said she can deliver her paddleboard kits to most rivers in the Gallatin and Park county areas. 

“They would call me up and I could deliver it like a pizza,” O’Neill quipped. 

Montana SUP can be reached at (406) 451-4356.