SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Business

July 9, 2014

North Shore paddleboard craze a stroke of luck for related businesses

Latest way to traverse open water growing in popularity

Don’t sit down — you’re not rocking the boat.

Not if you’re paddling a board. If you haven’t been to the water in a while, you might be ignorant of the trend in paddleboards — oversized surfboards that allow mariners to stand, rather than sit, as they paddle across what is, they hope, a calm body of water.

It’s a technique that began in Hawaii in the 1950s, said Aaron Mearns, 32, who teaches both paddleboarding and kayaking. Beach boys wanted a vantage point while working alongside tourists and instructing them in the best ways to handle real surfboards, he explained — so they stood up. The sport spread because the boards have a number of advantages, including allowing the paddler to stay drier than a boat might allow, to get a more commanding view of the surroundings and to get on and off more easily.

Mearns believes in it so much that, along with fiancee Ashley Sikomurski, he’s opened Coast to Coast Paddle on Cabot Street in Beverly.

“It’s been a dream for a while,” he said. The grand opening was June 28, and it’s the first venture into business for both. Products include a mix of paddleboards and kayaks, and beach and surfing accessories, for sale, for rent and for lessons.

Although they expect to do some hiring in the future, the two of them will keep the store open by themselves seven days a week, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mearns will give lessons at Beverly beaches.

Acknowledging that business and romance often do not mix, Mearns said, “We talked about it. But it’s actually been a lot of fun. We bring different skills to different areas of the business.”

He is optimistic about paddleboarding into the future: “Things are going to go well.”

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