Since 2016 Lori Erwin has shared her passion for standup paddleboarding, also known as SUP, with both residents and visitors of Williamsburg, Virginia. Lori is the owner and operator of Paddle On of Williamsburg where she and her team provide participants with a unique experience on the Chickahominy River.
SUP is exactly what it sounds like, participants stand on top of a board about 10 feet in length using a paddle to propel forward. If balancing is not your strong suit, Lori says kneeling or sitting on top of the board is a perfectly acceptable alternative. As a business owner and certified SUP instructor safety is a top priority for Lori.
“I want to be able to spread the love of paddle boarding and get as many people out there on the water as I can. I also want to make sure that it is done in the correct and the safe way.”
Lori does her best to keep all participants safe by making the ability to swim and introductory SUP lessons for beginners a requirement. Her mobile SUP business offers four main classes: Intro to SUP Lessons, Paddle Yoga, Paddle Fitness, and Social SUP Sunset Paddle. Additional limited classes include a Full Moon Paddle with Sound Bath and Paddle Yoga Teacher Training. Paddle On classes provides participants the opportunity to explore the natural beauty of the Chickahominy River from a unique perspective.
In addition to her class offerings, Lori organizes and hosts different SUP events that bring community members together for a good cause. There are two main events: Paddle Round the Island Race and Beer It For The Girls. These events bring visitors, residents, and local businesses and organizations together for a fun-filled day of sharing their love for SUPing and supporting their community.
Paddle Round the Island Race
This year Paddle On of Williamsburg put on their first Paddle Round the Island Race. Lori explained this event was an all-around team effort. She leaned on her staff, local business connections, and volunteers. The event took place at the Chickahominy Riverfront Park and all proceeds went to Evelyn’s Wildlife Refuge in Virginia Beach. There were a total of nine local businesses that supported the event, one of these businesses being the Williamsburg Boat Club. Both Paddle On and the Williamsburg Boat Club share a launch at the Chickahominy Riverfront Park and Lori often turns to them as they have experience in planning regattas (boat races). To Lori, it meant a lot that another water business extended a helping hand. She said the race was a huge success. After the race participants and workers enjoyed beer, food, and music at Billsburg Brewery, another strong partnership she has in the community. Lori plans on making this an annual event and will continue to donate all proceeds to a different ocal organization each year.
Beer For The Girls
Another event that Lori hopes to continue annually is called Beer For The Girls. In 2019 Lori collaborated with Billsburg Brewery and Here for the Girls, a local charity for women aged 45 and younger who are diagnosed with breast cancer. Beer For The Girls is a fun-filled event where participants paddle in decorated bras along the Powhatan Creek. Following the paddle, there was a live band and bra contest, where the best-decorated bra wins! While the event was a success, concerns around the COVID-19 pandemic pushed their next Beer For The Girls event back until July 2022.
Short Season, Big Goals
The SUP season is limited, meaning Lori has about a four-month time frame to provide as many services and events as possible. She explains, “I do the best that I can as a seasonal business to get as much in as possible.” And that she does, offering a wide range of classes, corporate events, paddle parties, special paddle tours, paddle yoga teacher training, and much more. When asked about her long-term goals she said, “I just want to be able to continue to offer what I offer.” Given the uncertainty brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, Lori is grateful that as an outdoor recreation service provider she saw steady and in some ways, improved business. As a small local business owner, she explains that it can be extremely hard to get her name out there. However, in 2019 Paddle On was in the running for the small business of the year award. A step in the right direction of putting her business on the map.
While talking with Lori it is clear that she has a passion not only for paddling and the outdoors but for helping her students feel confident and accomplished. She said the best feeling as a SUP instructor is seeing the look on someone’s face when they finally stand up on the board. That look is what made her realize just how much she loves her work and why she wants to continue to offer these services.
When asked what her advice is for someone who is thinking about trying out SUPing she said, “just come on out and give it a try!”