ST. ALBANS — Mike Mashtare is well known in the St. Albans community for his dedication to running and cross country skiing, but he’s got another passion — paddleboarding.
“In the last four or five years, paddleboarding has really taken off in this area,” said Mashtare.
“I’ve been a paddling enthusiast for about 30 years now. I started flatwater canoe racing and got into some white water canoe racing.”
One summer, the Mashtares went to Utah for a family vacation; after hiking and biking, they were looking for something else to do with the kids.
“We found a place offering paddleboard lessons; we went, and it was a blast! We went through the rapids on paddleboards,” said Mashtare.
“When I got back to Vermont, I couldn’t buy one fast enough!”
Mashtare got a few paddleboards and began giving lessons to people interested in the sport.
Paddleboarding gives the paddler a bird’s eye view of the water, and whether he’s been in calm water in his home state or on the ocean in Florida, Mashtare prefers a higher perspective.
“In the Florida Keys, I could look down into the water and see the rays and the fish,” said Mashtare.
Paddleboards are also very portable. Mashtare even has inflatable boards that make transport a breeze.
“I can inflate it before I go, or I can take a few with me and pump them up by hand in 15 minutes or pump them more quickly with a motorized pump,” said Mashtare.
Inflatable paddleboards often fold up and fit in a backpack, making them an ideal option for hard-to-reach places.
“If you were ambitious enough, you could take it up to Sterling Pond and fish from your paddleboard,” said Mashtare.
Inflatable paddleboards are less expensive, but Mashtare praised their durability.
“I’ve had mine for five or six years, and they’re in great shape. They are pretty much puncture-proof,” explained Mashtare.
Most people will enjoy paddling on calmer waters; Mashtare urged paddlers to be cautious on large bodies of water like Lake Champlain.
The Missisquoi and Lamoille rivers have many calm sections that are perfect for paddling.
One of Mashtare’s favorite river paddles, located on the Lamoille River, is an inlet to Lake Champlain and affords the expansive views of the Adirondacks.
The Sand Bar is another wonderful option, as is the Green River Reservoir.
“I’ve heard if you get out into the fingers of Green River early, there are moose and deer that come to the edge of the water,” said Mashtare.
Below the dam at Lake Arrowhead, an access allows paddlers to put in and explore.
“The lake gets narrow, and there are hills and lakes on both sides of you. You can paddle down to the Peterson Dam, about two miles one way.”
On the Missisquoi, Mashtare enjoys putting in on Route 78 and paddling out to Lake Champlain.
Indian Brook Reservoir in Essex is another paddle Mashtare views as a hidden gem.
Beautiful scenery and calm water can provide for a peaceful outing, but Mashtare also enjoys the workout involved with paddling.
Even a leisurely paddle requires a full-body effort. The standing position requires leg and core strength, and paddling requires arm strength.
Paddleboarding provides people of all ages the opportunity to get on the water.
“It’s a great exercise to work on balance and upper body strength. As Americans, we tend to be weak in our upper bodies.”
On average, Mashtare spends a couple of hours when he goes out alone. When with his family, an hour is usually enough for everyone.
“It all depends on what you’re doing. On a calm day, you can paddle out to Burton Island and take a hike,” said Mashtare.
“If you get tired of standing, you can lie down and float or kneel and paddle. You can even hop off into the water to cool off and hop back on.”
Mashtare is still giving lessons to adults and children eager to learn. He provides the boards, paddles, and life jackets. If you have your own paddleboard, he also gives tours.
He also gives tours to those who own their own equipment and are interested in exploring local areas.
Like any water sport, paddleboarding requires vigilance.
“There are a few things in nature that you have to respect, and the power of water and wind are two of those things. Both can put you in a lot of danger in a hurry,” said Mashtare.
“I grew up on the lake, and I know how fast Lake Champlain can change.”
The sport that Mashtare picked up in Utah has become a staple in his list of warmer weather activities.
“If you live in Vermont, you’ve got to just love being on a body of water. There are so many little bodies of water tucked away.”