Tensleep Reservoir, Big Horn County in the state of Wyoming. Photo courtesy of Billy Strawter, Jr.

Before the summer sets, grab your paddleboard and hit the water, Detroit.

Paddleboarding is a water sport where you’re propelled using your arms or paddle while lying, kneeling or standing on a paddleboard or surfboard on open water. Some enjoy the sport for pleasure, others compete and garner millions of fans as a result. Unlike surfing though, you can actually practice paddleboarding in a lake or river, in fact, it’s the calm, flat water that’s best for a beginner. As you can imagine, paddleboarding is a thing in Detroit because we are surrounding by plush blue water. Actually BLAC’s publisher, Billy Strawter, Jr. and his family have enjoyed paddleboarding for years and share a passion for water sports in general with groups of other Black Detroiters; Yes Black people do paddleboard and we’ve compiled a list of ways to experience the sport locally.

Events and opportunities like the ones we’ve identified below in Detroit counter the myth that Black people do not swim or are afraid of the water. Not only do we swim in pools, we take dips in rivers, lakes and surf. In fact, long before white boys picked up surfing, Africans, indigenous Australians and people of color carefully chose wood that would float to craft boards to ride the waves.

Where To Paddleboard in Detroit?

Groups like Detroit’s Black to the Land Coalition have made it their mission to make outdoor activities a priority for people of color. Since 2021, the group sponsors Blacks & Browns in Kayaks, an event for families from all across Metro Detroit, where Black and Brown families from all across metro Detroit are invited to come together to celebrate the outdoors and paddle Proud Lake in Commerce Township, Michigan. 

Belle Isle Classic. Photo by Terry McNamara, courtesy of BelleIsland Classic Instagram page.

The Belle Isle Classic returned after a three-year hiatus; this competition stretches 6.6-miles and was so popular that participation was capped at 150. Participants compete for prizes for their stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking and rowing. 

3Detroit River Sports

Detroit River Sports

Detroit River Sports offers classes for beginner and advanced level paddleboarders and fun in-cave and night-time water tours.

thatswassupdetroit Instagram.

For more than a decade, That’s Wassup Stand Up Paddle Michigan also offers group and guided sunset paddleboarding tours. Water enthusiasts can rent boards by the hour, full days or weekends.

Paddleboarding on the Detroit River at sunset. Photos Courtesy of Billy Strawter, Jr.

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