PORT CLYDE — Maine has about 7,000 miles of tidal coastline and more than 4,000 islands. To see the shore in all of its glory it is best to have a small boat. A day sailer would do, or a skiff with an outboard, but for simplicity nothing beats small, self-propelled craft like kayaks and stand-up paddleboards.
Image: Rafael Adams, owner of Soposup in South Portland, Maine
Muscongus Bay in midcoast and Casco Bay in the south of the state are particularly flush with explorable terrain. Guide services and shops that rent kayaks and stand-up paddleboards are common around both bays. The Maine Island Trail Association maintains a 375-mile aqua trail with access to over 190 coastal islands and sites along the coast.
[Rafael] Adams started stand-up paddle boarding in 2010. He was looking for a way to get out on the water without spending a lot of money. He bought a board and went exploring around Casco Bay. He spoke fondly of his first few weeks of paddling — watching seals and cormorants catch mackerel around Richmond Island, casting for striped bass in the channel between Prouts Neck and Pine Point, catching big breaking waves at Higgins Beach. He was hooked, so he opened Soposup, a shop to sell the boards and teach lessons.
We paddled out through the surf and into the rolling swell of Casco Bay. It was warm and cloudy. “Isn’t this awesome,” Adams said. “You can really feel the ocean.”
We paddled out of the cove and along the cliffs toward Portland Head Light. Off in the distance we could see Halfway Rock Lighthouse, a few miles out to sea. “My goal is to paddle out there sometime this summer,” Adams said for now he has his hands full. Lately he has added yoga on the boards and birding on the boards to his schedule. “It’s not quite extreme birding,” he says, “but it’s close.” Adams, along with Mike Windsor, a naturalist at the Gilsland Farm Audubon Center in Falmouth, takes groups out onto salt marsh in the Spurwink River or onto Great Pond in Cape Elizabeth. They see herons and warblers and birds of prey.
“The board is equivalent to a bicycle for the water,” said Adams. “I like kayaks but I think that they have met their match. I have heard them called fair-weather toys; maybe they seem vulnerable but they are not. People are riding Jaws on Maui on paddleboards. That’s the heaviest wave in the world. The sport is so pure, just a board and a paddle, it’s as simple as you can get.”