LAKE IN THE HILLS – Over the years, Alpine Accessories wanted a product line – in addition to skis and snowboards – that allowed the store to keep its employees year-round.
“As our winter business grew, in the past, we would just be shutdown for four or five months,” said store owner Rick Pasturczak. “It became somewhat difficult to keep employees full time, it became difficult to pay them, hence going into a summer sport made us all-round.”
The store now has 10 employees.
Alpine Accessories had talked about being a bike shop or selling patio furniture, kayaks, and canoes, but then three years ago found stand-up paddleboarding. A stand-up paddleboard is large enough that a person can stand on it while on the water even though it’s not moving.
“It developed from surfing,” Pasturczak said. “Surfing instructors had a difficult time teaching their students, when they had a wave, they were always on the board, they couldn’t see above the wave.”
So the instructors asked for bigger boards for people to stand on. They found it would be easier to get around if they had a paddle, Pasturczak added.
The boards range from 9 feet to 12.5 feet long. They are big enough that a person can sit or kneel on them, as well.
“You can go out there and take it easy, you can go out there and make it a fitness thing [or] you can go out there for a picnic,” Pasturczak said.
The primary places for stand-up paddleboarding are lakes, and rivers – even rapids.
Some of the best places in the area to try the sport out are on the Fox River, south of the Algonquin Dam, where there are no boats, and areas where there are no-wake restrictions, or Lake Atwood in the Hollows near Cary.
Boards are made out of different materials, including rubber and polystyrene. The store uses inflatable boards for rentals and lessons. The store offers lessons at the Three Oaks Recreation Area in Crystal Lake.
The popularity has grown so much, there will be challenges this summer at Three Oaks, as part of a series of events sponsored by BIC Sport.
On the second Saturday of June, July, August and September, people will be able to try out boards and run a course that is about three-quarters of a mile long. There will be a series of buoys on the course.
“A lot of people can paddle fast and paddle straight, it’s when they’re going to make that turn, trying to get as tight as they can, that’s where the fun starts,” Pasturczak said.
Alpine Accessories is one of 30 dealers in the country hosting the event for BIC.
Pasturczak said he hopes to make the challenge an annual event.
The shop, which got its start as a mail-order ski and snowboard equipment business, even has its winter sports lovers trying stand-up paddleboarding. A majority of the shop’s stand-up paddleboarder customers also ski or snowboard.
The store switches between the product lines in mid-April and in September.
“This worked better for our ski and snowboard business, because a lot of skiers and snowboarders, this is a crossover training, for them, for their abs and legs. for stability,” Pasturczak said. “It works out really good.”