Posts Tagged ‘Maine Stand Up Paddle Boarding’

Maine SUP – Retail, Lessons, Rentals, Downwinders, Racing, Fitness – Thorfinn Expeditions

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

Thorfinn Expeditions, based out of Midcoast Maine, is excited for 2013! Stand Up Paddle Boarding is the fastest growing water sport in the world and this will be Thorfinn’s 4th season running SUP programs and stocking a huge selection of SUP gear.

“ Three-seasons ago we started with a few boards and began teaching on Lake Megunticook,” explains co-owner and lead instructor Thor Emory, “We did it to compliment our sailing program. We are long time kayakers and we took to SUP pretty quickly. I have to admit at first I just saw it as a solid flatwater fitness activity but as we developed our skills and began paddling in all conditions, racing etc., then our program offerings grew and we ramped up the paddle specific retail aspect of our business.”

Thorfinn now runs one of the most comprehensive SUP programs in the U.S. with access to the stunning Maine Coast and lakes. From rentals and 2-hour beginner lessons to powerboat-supported downwinders, Thorfinn is geared up for any level of paddler. The SUP staff is comprised of experienced outdoor athletes and educators who are all ACA level 2 SUP certified.  Thorfinn was featured in the “Best of New England” in Outside Magazine last summer! New 2013 programs include women’s programs (SHE-SUPs), kids camps, race training, and more Maine Coast ocean tours for capable paddlers.

Thor in particular has been pushing the sport to new levels here in Maine. Last summer he did a non-stop circumnavigation of Mount Desert Island (47.5 miles) in under 10-hours and he takes advantage of the winter gales to fly up Penobscot Bay. He is also a member of the Speedboard USA race team. Aimee Leclerk and Hampton Kew round out the instructional staff and they have developed solid resumes as both paddlers and instructors.

The retail shop in Lincolnville Beach stocks a huge selection of SUP gear with a particular emphasis on touring/racing boards. Brands include Laird, Boga, Hobie, Coreban, Tahoe, SIC, Speedboard USA, Quickblade, and Kialoa. When the shop reopens in April it will have one of the largest inventories of SUP gear around.

Co-owner Chris Laughlin, “Our level of experience allows us to run exceptional SUP/outdoor programs and to provide quality gear from a knowledgeable sales staff. With the growth of SUP there are a lot of shops popping up and many of them a very new to the sport. At Thorfinn we have a relaxed but experienced vibe. We are very good at developing SUPers and providing them with the appropriate gear. Maine is one of the most unique and beautiful areas to SUP!”


During the offseason Thorfinn Expeditions can be reached at or (207) 789-5115

Thorfinn 10 For 10 SUP Sale!

Saturday, December 1st, 2012


We love winter. The incoming cold weather and snow doesn’t smother our drive to paddle and adventure along the Midcoast – we just dress differently.

Still, one of our favorite pastimes in winter is pining for the warm sun to return, the ice to recede, and for the spring paddling season to begin. We’ve got our orders placed with the manufacturers for the 2013 season – our retail shop on Lincolnville Beach will have the top paddleboards, kayaks and paddles in the industry this spring. We can’t wait!

We want to share our eagerness, so we’re offering the Thorfinn 10 for 10 Sale to help get you ready and out on the water in 2013. We’ve got some great gear on its way to Maine; here’s a chance to grab some and give yourself something to look forward to this winter!


10 for 10 Sale:

• Put 10% down on any in stock or incoming Thorfinn paddleboard by Christmas, and receive 10% off total purchase price. Balance is due when you come to pick-up your new toy in the spring – May 1st deadline.
• Receive 10% off paddles and accessories with board purchase.
• Free 1 hour SUP lesson included with sale purchase – redeemable Spring/Summer 2013
• Sale applies to: Tahoe, Hobie, Boga, Coreban and Speedboard SUP boards.
• Sale applies to in stock items, as well as inventory arriving Spring 2013.
• For full details on available product please contact us at: or 207-789-5115.

Whether you’re looking for something entry level or elite, Thorfinn Expeditions has what you need. Let’s get on the water! – Team Thorfinn

Tahoe SUPCorebanBoga BoardsHobie SUPSpeedboard USA


Boga SUP Boards Have Arrived At Thorfinn!

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

Lincolnville Beach, Maine

We’re very pleased to announce that the first order of Boga SUP boards has arrived at the Thorfinn Expeditions shop on Lincolnville Beach. We’re excited to be working with Boga, the company has quickly established a strong reputation in the industry. The boards are gorgeous, well built and the line offers great designs for the diverse ways SUP boards are used these days, whether it be surfing, racing or yoga.

We’re now even more pumped to get down to Popham Beach this Fall/Winter for some SUP surfing! These great looking boards are sure to generate some interest on the beach. The Mahina 10’6 and Classic 11’2 are terrific options for both beginners and experienced surfers/paddlers. If you’d like to check them out give us a call at 207-789-5115 or email us at

Boga is also very active in supporting and growing the SUP fitness and racing culture, which we’re thrilled about. The company offers fast, efficient designs that meet the specifications for the popular racing divisions, as well as general fitness boards such as their “Boga Yoga 11′” – a yoga specific board which will be really popular with that fast growing segment of the market!

Learn more about the Boga products and team at the Boga Boards website


Why Choose Boga Stand Up Paddle Boards?

“At Boga, we live and breathe Stand Up Paddle Boarding [SUP]. If we are not out on the water riding our paddle boards we are here working hard designing the next best board shape and paddle so you can. Our sport, a gift from the ancient Polynesians, has been spread by rider’s passion across the globe. Our team is part of the passionate Stand Up Paddle Board movement taking our exciting sport to new extremes in SUP racing, surfing and recreation. The Boga team is proud to offer an affordable, high quality line of stand up boards designed to meet the widest range of use in today’s most popular paddle board disciplines. Our line of boards feature the high quality construction, performance and value which riders of all levels should demand. Whether you cruise lakes or paddle surf, the Boga team has designed a quality stand up board and paddle to meet your needs.”


School Of SUP – “The Premier Maine Stand Up Paddle Program”

Saturday, October 20th, 2012


New 2013 Thorfinn SUP Program!


Thorfinn Expeditions’ S.O.S Camp will take you from being a complete beginner to a self-sufficient paddler! Our camp allows you to become fully immersed in stand up paddleboarding for 2-full days with ACA SUP Level II certified coaches using the best gear on the planet on the beautiful lakes and ocean of Midcoast Maine. Back-to-back instructional days are the fastest way to learn to SUP with confidence.

WHERE: S.O.S camps are held at the Thorfinn Basecamp in Lincolnville Beach, Maine.

WHAT YOU GET: 5:1 Ratio of Students to ACA SUP Level II Coach – Gear knowledge – Exposure to both lake and ocean paddling – Fundamental and advanced paddling strokes/board skills – Video Analysis – Basic Navigation Skills and ocean touring prep. – Optional 3rd day of touring or downwind run – Thorfinn SUP Tech Tee – Special discounts for participating students on all gear at Thorfinn Expeditions – Lunch included for all days attending – Optional BBQ/SUP movie night while in town!


Schedule & Rates


June: 15th-22nd; 24th-26th
July: 6th-8th; 20th-22nd
August: 3rd-5th; 23rd-25th; 31st-2nd
September: 14th-16th

Weekly SOS Session 2013

Mondays-Wednesdays (June 24th-September 9th)

2 Day Camp: $259.00
3 Day Camp: $359.00


School Of SUP Itinerary:

Day One:

9:00 AM Registration: Thorfinn Retail Store. Coffee!
9:45 SUP STOKE-Introduction and discussion of class program and the sport of SUP!
10:15 Gear Review- PFD Check
10:30 Report to Hosmer Pond for beginning paddle Clinic
12:00p Lunch-Pondside (weather dependent)
1:00 Back on the water (Megunticook Lake): Bracing, stopping, board stance, pivot turns and tour
3:00 tricks- SUP style.
4:00 Wrap up – End of First Day – Evening BBQ at Basecamp (optional)

Day Two

8:30 AM SUP STOKE- Day 2! Intro to gear. WHAT you need and WHY
9:15 DEMO Board Selection and head to Lake Megunticook
9:30 Lake Tour and Video analysis
Aggressive paddling – for racing or upwind conditions.
11:30 Lunch back at T.E Basecamp- combined with video critique
12:30 OCEAN Intro. – Waves, Current, basic navigation, tides and weather
1:30 Ocean SUP Tour
3:30 Return to Thorfinn for post SUP STOKE, graduation, and discussion for optional down-winder 3rd day.
4:00 End of school.

Day Three (Option)

9:30 AM DOWNWINDAH! Plan of attack meeting and weather class.
10:30 Rally to ocean geared up and good to go.
11:00 Fun on the Ocean-Options to include departing from Lincolnville and paddling to Camden, or even as far as Rockport or other destinations. This half day is completely weather dependent and is designed for those who want to push their paddling and fitness factor to the next level on a board.

After – Somewhere between 1pm – 2 depending on conditions- POST DOWNWIND Refueling at Thorfinn Expeditions

Post After – Storytelling, general sharing of post SUP STOKAGE, gear return and preparing to hit the road home- to your own SUP experiences elsewhere.

(207) 789-5115


Thorfinn Expeditions has one of the most comprehensive SUP touring programs in the country. From beginner lake sessions to downwind runs in famed Penobscot Bay, Thorfinn SUP has an offering for any ability. All instructors are ACA SUP Level 2 certified and have their wilderness medical certifications. Staff are racers, fitness trainers, and pioneers in the Maine SUP scene.

The Thorfinn Basecamp in Lincolnville Beach doubles as a retail shop that carries the best SUP Gear on the planet – Hobie SUP, Coreban, Laird, Tahoe SUP, BOGA, Speedboard USA, Kialoa, Quickblade


About Lincolnville Beach (The LB):

Lincolnville Beach (2004 Outside Magazine outdoor dream town) is a prime location to learn to SUP. In the heart of Midcoast Maine the “LB” is located right on the ocean but also within minutes of idyllic lakes where the water is warmer and weather conditions can be more stable for learning to SUP. Penobscot Bay, the second largest embayment on the east coast, offers amazing options for paddling downwind between towns, islands, or just cruising the coast right in front of Thorfinn basecamp. There are several restaurants within walking distance of S.O.S with many more in the town of Camden which is just 5.5 miles down the road.


Where to Stay:

Beach Cottage Inn at the Whale’s Tooth: (Walking distance to Thorfinn Expeditions S.O.S )
2533 Atlantic Highway, Lincolnville, ME 04849‬- PH:207-789-5200
Camden Hills State Park- Camp Grounds: 280 Belfast Road, Camden, ME 04843‬ PH. 207-236-0849
Point Lookout: Copper Pne Northport, ME 04849 PH :207 789-2040
Bay Leaf Cottages and Bistro: 2372 Atlantic Highway, Linconville, ME 04849 – PH: (207) 505-0458



What should I wear?

Be prepared to get wet. A swim suit and board shorts are ideal with some kind of shirt to keep the sun off you as well as offer comfort under your life jacket. Keep in mind hats and sunglasses are also great to wear, but make sure they are secured to you somehow so as not to lose them if you end up in the water.

Do I wear shoe while SUPing?

Not usually. In warmer conditions we go barefoot. We recommend bringing flip flops for to and from the water. If the conditions are rocky or colder, water shoes or neoprene booties are ideal.

What do I need to bring?

Bring whatever clothes you will want to sup in, a towel and some dry après clothing options. Summer nights in Maine can be cool year round.

How cold is the water?

The ocean in maine can be between 50 and 60 degrees f. Mid summer can get into the mid 60’s. The lakes can be as warm as the mid 70’s. Thorfinn will provide wetsuits in colder temps.

What if I am not a great swimmer? Can I paddle?

All participants are required to comply with US Coast Guard regulations and will wear a life jacket while on the water. You will also be tethered to your board with a leash. Both the pfd and attached board will act as flotation aids . Your swimming abilities may be assessed before a longer ocean SUP depending on conditions.

What if I have paddled before but want to do a camp that’s not for beginners?

Sign up for our S.O.S Elite or our S.O.S Pro Camp. The SOS Elite is gear towards intermediate to advanced paddlers, and our pro camp is lead by professional guest paddlers and will focus on race techniques and advanced ocean touring.

Is there camping near by?

Yes, see above in places to stay

Is this a good family program?

This is a great camp for families. See out S.O.S family camp and depending on the ages of your children we can set up a camp just for you.

How old do you have to be to take the S.O.S Camp?

In order to maintain a higher level of proficiency for our general S.O.S camps we require individuals to be at least 16 years of age. See info about thorfinn family camps and Thorfinn Kids Camps for younger paddlers.

New Speedboard 18′ SUP – Ocean Trials (VIDEO)

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

FALL for MAINE SUP’ing: And why you need both a wetsuit and a dry suit!

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

By Hampton Kew

Summer may be over, but some of the best Stand Up Paddleboarding is yet to come. As I sit in my cabin writing this, I can hear the steady north winds blowing through the trees and can already see the forerunners of the fall foliage starting to show their colors. Tentatively for now, but in the next few weeks the east coast will be exploding with fiery orange, gold and flame red colors before the forests’ pre-winter shedding. It’s an amazing time of year on the Maine Coast (and lakes – no bugs!) and with some warmer paddling gear, and a good paddle board, fall is a time where your summer skills can be tested and elevated by surfing and exploiting the winds and waves.

The water temperature cools down, but more so it is the air temperature that we are noticing. It’s the time of year I now make sure my slippers are close to my bed side so as to avoid the shock of the cold morning floor. Because of this it is important to have the right gear before setting out for your fall paddling. At Thorfinn, we paddle all year long, yes, even in the winter- and we have found out a few things about how to dress for the “board short-won’t-cut-it” seasons.

Paddling is an aerobic sport. You get hot. But one slip into the drink and its only a matter of minutes that separate you from hypothermia and potential drowning in cold conditions. So how to dress for success and safety? September and October are a great time for medium to heavy weight wet suits, and winter months a dry suit is recommended.

What is the difference between a wetsuit and dry suit? In a wetsuit, you get wet. In a dry suit, you don’t. But which one should you use and when?


WETSUITS – Great for Maine SUP’ing in the fall or spring seasons depending on the weight you use. For Maine Stand Up Paddleboarding seasons change quickly. As soon as you are done wearing board shorts and a bathing suit it’s immediately time for a warmer wetsuit.

Wetsuits are measured in thickness by Millimeters. The thicker the neoprene, the warmer the suit. A warm, yet versatile wetsuit would be a 3:2 or a 4:3 for fall and spring paddling in Maine. This means the neoprene in the core or central body of the suit 4mm thick and only 3mm thick in the arms and legs. It is important that your core stay the warmest as it is the furnace for the rest of your body. Using slightly less thick neoprene in your extremities still keeps your arms and legs warm but allows for more mobility. A wetsuit must also fit snugly- but not too tight. If the suit is compressing your body its constricting blood flow which will have the opposite effect of what you’re looking for- it will make you feel cold. Seam construction is also important when looking for warmer suits. Blind stitch construction and taping are crucial in keeping the cold water from flushing through the suit.

{See the Thorfinn Chart Below to determine your outfitting strategy. Temps are measured in degrees F.}

Temperature/Season Wetsuit
80 to 74F-Summer – rash guard
73 to 66F-Summer 2mm Neoprene top or Springsuit
65 to 58 F-Fall/Spring 2mm Long Sleeve Springsuit or 3/2mm full suit
58 to 55 F-Fall/Spring 3/2mm full suit + booties
54 to 49 F-Fall/Spring 4/3mm full suit + booties
49 to 43 F-Early Winter 5/4mm full suit + booties + hood
42 F and Below-Winter! Dry Suit or 6/5 Wetsuit-Thorfinn goes DRYSUIT!
Maine Winters- Dry suit + booties + hood


DRYSUITS - While Maine is hardly Antarctica some winters it feels like it might be, but this no reason to stop paddling! In fact the winter winds can make for great downwind runs and what better way to enjoy some snow falling than being on the water? Just like dressing for the ski season, dry suits provide protection from the elements by acting as a complete barrier between you and the water and wind. There are neoprene dry suits, shell suits and hybrid suits that utilize both fabrications. Thorfinn recommends a shell or Gore-Tex dry suit that you can layer under (just like under your ski pants and ski jacket) for the ultimate in comfort, versatility and protection. Transitioning to a dry suit once the wetsuit season ends is the best and safest way to enjoy some winter paddling.

Thorfinn Expeditions uses Wetsuits from O’Neill and Dry suits from Kokatat and we would be happy to assist you with finding the proper gear for you fall and winter paddling needs. We specialize in outfitting you , from head to toe, for your specific goals and will order the perfect suit, or combination of suits to keep you on the water this fall and winter! We can help you keep your body, hands/feet and head warm!

Give us a call to answer any questions on gear and look for us on the water during the first snowfall. We’ll be out there.

Note: Ocean SUP touring in Maine can be demanding during any season. Fall, winter, spring, summer paddling in Maine requires a high skill level, judgment skills, and good gear. Ideally always winter paddle with strong partners

The Thorfinn Basecamp is located in Lincolnville Beach, Maine. Thorfinn Expeditions runs a very comprehensive SUP program and carries the best gear available! – – 207-789-5115


- Hampton Kew. Hampton is the latest addition to Team Thorfinn. A Maine native, Hampton grew up sailing in the summers and skiing in the winter. She is a certified PSIA Level III Ski instructor and has a long history of teaching and coaching in the outdoors. She skied at Bates College before heading west to Jackson Hole and California where she continued her coaching and teaching career, as well as becoming a sales rep for Rossignol in the Western United States and in New Zealand. Hampton has also worked for the Orvis Company, and other outfits as a fly fishing instructor, and most recently as a product manager for The North Face Company.

In a very short time Hampton has become an accomplished SUPer. She is an ACA Level 2 SUP instructor, she is one of only two women to have completed the burly 20-mile Blackburn Challenge on a SUP and she loves downwinders. Hampton helps oversee the retail side of Thorfinn, teaches and guides SUP, and is working on getting her USCG Captains-license so she can pilot the sailing program’s Presto 30 around Frenchman’s Bay. She is getting ready for Maine winter SUP!

February 2012: Rockport Harbor to Lincolnville Beach Paddle:


How I discovered the wonderful world of Stand Up Paddleboarding

Saturday, July 21st, 2012

A rookie learns to love SUP in the coastal waters of Maine – By Hampton Kew

SUP. I had never thought much about it until recently. I have been living in the Rocky mountains for 13 years and had started to see one or two people on long boards and kayak paddles begin to experiment drifting down the Snake River, but simply regarded it as a slightly crazy alternative to Fly Fishing from drift boats.

Then I moved to California- where I attempted to learn how to surf as all self respecting Californians should. I bought a long board and every weekend attempted to catch a wave and avoid getting in the way of territorial locals. Amidst being tossed around the white water like a toy, I noticed there were a large number of people standing on their boards with paddles. They seemed to be catching waves with less effort. I was just trying to keep my head out of the water and dismissed it as an alternative to surfing. Since I had already committed myself to a new long board I thought I should stick with that even though the SUP scene looked pretty cool.

Most recently some friends went to a wedding in Mexico- where they came back raving about how they used SUP to actually transport themselves from one area of the resort they were in to another and …”it was so much more fun to do than expected…” Mmmm. Well I thought, next time I am in a sunny tropical resort maybe I will finally give one a try.

Then, I moved to Maine. The average water temperature in the Atlantic rarely gets above 55 degrees and summer seems to fly by. Where Lobsters and Blueberries are cheaper than cheeseburgers these days, and winters are cold, snowy and very long, Maine is probably one of the last places that jumps to mind when thinking of a Paddleboarding destination. Sailboats and fishing boats jam local harbors and the majority of beaches are made up of broken rock and granite slabs. “Surf Culture” is mostly seen in magazine photos from the West Coast, and paddling is something that’s done from Old Town Canoes and sea kayaks. While there are great rivers here with terrific white water opportunities, and even a few beaches where hard core surfers delight in unpopulated breaks, SUP’ing is just beginning to rise in popularity. Those that are trying it, are loving it!

As it turns out, Maine is arguably one of the most amazing places to wet your board. It is an untapped resource for both fresh water lake SUPing as well as an open opportunity for big downwinders, breathtaking coastal tours and the ability to explore hundreds of minimally populated islands.

I am an active person. I like to play. Moving to Maine from the Rockies has been a test of my own personal ability to adapt and accept change. I came from a place where I spent a lot of time in big mountains that simply do not exist here in the same way. So how do I find the adventure and the fitness I crave without my usual 10,000ft peaks as vices? Incredibly, Stand Up Paddleboarding here in Maine has been an amazing discovery.

Thor Emory, owner and lead guide of Thorfinn Expeditions in Bar Harbor and Lincolnville, Maine introduced me to the wonderful world of SUP and it has truly become my go to for recreation, fitness, and simple enjoyment -as well as a vehicle to actually tour and see the Maine coast. It has even relighted my competitive juices by being able to start racing! You can do anything on a Stand Up Paddleboard. Literally.

Stand Up Paddleboarding, at any level, is an incredible work out. Not only does it work your core, it is great for balance and basically every muscle in your body. You can SUP to any degree of exertion getting out of it exactly what you put in. You can load up a board with gear and disappear down the coast for days, or you can simply splash around in the warm waters of Echo Lake or Long Pond here on Mount Desert Island. I can put my ipod on and SUP up and down in the early morning fog until I feel like I have gotten a good work out, and not worry about the impact on my knees and back if I had done the same distance running. I can get the adrenaline flowing by heading out with Thor on a day where its blowing 25 knots and with the wind at our backs we can slingshot from Lincolnville to Rockland in 2.5 hours.

It’s fun to go out with a group or to go solo to escape on your board. I have seen porpoises rise out of the water just feet from me, and both seals and lobster boats have circled me, trying to figure out what I was. In a short time I have completed my ACA Level II instructor certification, expanding what I can do on a board by sharing the experience with others. I am also one of only two women who have completed The Blackburn Challenge, a twenty-mile race around Cape Ann in Gloucester, MA.

You can get your gear fix as well. There are so many different kinds of boards on the market to choose from. Each design offers certain advantages for differing conditions. It is exciting to see the rapid metamorphis of these boards, like watching the days when skis evolved from straight to shaped. Companies like Speedboard USA are showing up to races with boards that look like nothing anyone in the SUP world has seen before. It’s exciting to witness this level of creativity and the advancement of the sport.

It was only 7 weeks ago that after watching Thor’s videos of his SUP adventures in March while wearing dry suits I thought he was crazy. Whether in freezing temperatures , a snow storm, or hot and sunny conditions, Thor does not hesitate to go out Stand Up Paddleboarding almost everyday. I now have a similar calling. We are going to start pilates on the boards soon, and have started sailing people back from a big down wind SUP with our Presto 30 sailboat. Intrinsically- Stand Up Paddleboarding is just fun. I had no idea how much fun let alone the possibilities of what can be done with it here in Maine. While I look forward to still trying to SUP in Mexico or other blue warm waters, we have only scratched the surface of the adventures we can have right here in Maine. I am looking forward to shopping for my first dry suit already.

Team Thorfinn SUP Takes On The 2012 Blackburn Challenge

Monday, July 16th, 2012


Gloucester, MA – 20 mile open water race
Team Thorfinn: Thor Emory and Hampton Kew
Boards: Tahoe SUP Thunderbird and Tahoe SUP Bliss
Paddles: Quickblade

“The Blackburn Challenge is a 20+ mile open water circumnavigation of Cape Ann. Participants row or paddle small boats in the open ocean waters around Cape Ann, and conditions can vary dramatically throughout the day. Occasionally the water can be very rough, with strong winds and high waves. While we have some powerboats on the course to monitor checkpoints, we do not provide boat escorts—you should expect to be out of their sight and fully independent most of the time. Unless you have solid experience in difficult conditions with the boat you plan to use, you should not enter this event.”

I hurt! My arms, back, neck, shoulders, legs – they are all sore. Yesterday I finally competed in the Blackburn Challenge; a 20 mile race open to many different classes of human propelled craft (surfskis, kayaks, shells, outrigger canoes…). The course is around Cape Ann, home to Gloucester, MA. With well over 300-rowers/paddlers, The Blackburn is a big race by New England standards and it is one that I have wanted to do for years. In the past, I was keen to go in a fast sea kayak or surfski but more recently it was the SUP division that caught my interest. I can now state that it is a fantastic race – a lot of work, especially on an SUP, but totally worth it. I will remember even more fondly once my arms go above the shoulders.

I was not pleased when I stepped out of my motel room at 5 am, a little less than 3-hours prior to the start. I could feel the wind. Wind for 20 miles on a SUP is not a good thing unless it is at your back. The forecast was for light air but weather is always tough to predict. My fellow Team Thorfinn SUPer, Hampton Kew, and I drove to the Gloucester High School for race registration. Hampton took note of the wind enroute and commented that she wanted to puke. Hampton was attempting to be the first woman to complete the race under the required 6-hour limit. She was already nervous. The waving leaves were not helping the situation.

There were a lot of sleek looking craft and fit individuals in the parking lot. All manner of craft were being unloaded from car tops and transported towards the Annisquam River. There was a jovial spirit in the air. We all packed into the high school for the skippers meeting. We were briefed on the course, updated on the wind, and it was highlighted that there were two women attempting to SUP the Blackburn. Hampton scurried off to the bathroom.

At 7:45 the SUPers started. For the next hour various classes would start behind us and eventually overtake those of us who stood on the water. The tide was slack but the wind was in our face as we ground out of the river. The sky was overcast, which combined with the breeze, kept the temps down. My body temp began to rise as I rounded Annisquam Light. The wind backed off and I was paddling in light quartering chop. I sucked on the water from my Camelback and tried not to play mental distance/speed games. I had a GPS watch on my wrist and I could see both my average speed and distance covered. With some tail current I was averaging 5.5 mph but it was not fast enough to stay with the two guys in front of me. I was comfortably in third and would stay there throughout the race.

The best leg was downwind across Sandy Bay to the midpoint at Straitsmouth. It felt good to get pushed along and I bore down, in vain, to gain on the leaders. Various oarsmen and paddlers were overhauling us at this point. The shells and surfskis looked so effortless as they went gliding by. It was fun to watch the boats as they moved out. At Straitsmouth I passed the midpoint check in and immediately my chest and shoulders began to spasm. I chugged more water and chewed some energy trying to keep the pain at bay. I still had 10 miles to go and the second half of the race sucked compared the first half.

The race turned into a total grind-fest from Emerson Point to the finish. It was a lot of crosswind work and that is tough on a SUP. You end up paddling predominantly on one side. I focused on relaxing during the recovery phase of my stroke and essentially turned off my brain as much as possible. All I could do was go forward. I took no breaks and just kept up my cadence. Eventually I cruised along the breakwater that marks the turning point to the finish. The finish came into view, albeit still almost 2-miles away. My body was pretty sore. Just a week and a half earlier I SUPed continuously around Mount Desert Island, which is 47-miles and kept up my Blackburn Race pace, but I had not had wind. The Blackburn was beating me up far worse in less than half the distance.

The finish line just off the beach came closer. I could see the committee boat and the awaiting crowd. At that point my music failed and my headphones went dead. Suddenly there was just the slap of water against my board and my suffering took on a new level, but I did not have far to go. I finally crossed the line after 3 hours and 53 minutes of tough paddling. I drifted into the shallows, dismounted and just lay in the cool water.

There were a lot of people and boats spread around. Food/beer were close at hand and music was playing. Athletes and spectators milled together. I found a comfortable looking rock and just lay down for quite a while. My chest was still sending waves of spasms but they dissipated and I soaked up the lack of movement.

It was fun watching all the competitors behind me finish. One by one boards and boats came ashore to the welcoming embrace of personal satisfaction and nourishment. I eventually stirred enough to demo the winning SUP board. It was an 18’ prototype designed and built by Speedboard USA. Their team rider Will Rich paddled the machine and it is a very impressive unlimited board. If you are going to go 20-miles then it should be on a SUP like that… The race inspired me to train harder and rearm in the board department.

Hampton’s father Alan spent the entire race finding vantage points to track her progress. He crashed seaside estates and clamored over various rocky points. After I finished I learned that Hampton had cruised by the midpoint 20-minutes ahead of the time limit pace. That was good news but I knew that the second half was far tougher. It would be tough to finish and not make it in under 6-hours and thus get a DNF (did not finish). Hampton had only been SUPing for a month and a half and has a chronic back problem, which had limited her training paddles to less than 12 miles. The Blackburn was a huge step up – 20 plus miles at race pace and with wind to boot.

Alan and I stayed in touch frequently. Hampton was finally spotted and I got a very enthusiastic phone call. I glanced at my watch and it appeared that she was in a comfortable position. I was psyched but also a little nervous. I stood down by the water and stared out expectantly. A tall, handsome, middle-aged guy burst in front of me and started waving his arms around like a crazy man. Alan Kew almost blocked my view of Hampton as she powered over the finish line, exhibiting her smooth technique. She had 18-minutes to spare. She did it! Hampton and the woman who was just a little ahead of her became the first two women to complete The Blackburn Challenge on a SUP board. There was no great fan fair on the beach, however. I helped Hampton to kneel down and then carried her board up. Later we both got two cool medals for our performance and we are already looking ahead to next year.

It is important to take on personal challenges. They provide an opportunity to stretch yourself. I really need to stretch now… I have affectionately renamed the race “The Backburn” and would highly suggest it to any paddlers/rowers looking for a good Challenge.


Thor Emory and Hampton Kew are ACA Level 2 SUP instructors and are lead instructors for Thorfinn Expeditions, the Maine based outdoor adventure/education business that specializes in high-performance sailing and SUP. Thorfinn also is a dealer for the best SUP and kayak/surfski gear available.    

Learn to SUP in Maine – Midcoast and Acadia

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

Thorfinn Expeditions is a leader in the Maine SUP scene. We were the first to start offering programs in the Midcoast to Downeast area, and we have done more SUP ocean touring than most – year ’round and in all conditions. Now in our third season of lake and ocean instruction/touring, we take pride in our enthusiasm for the sport, and our ability to provide first class instruction and ocean tours. Our staff is comprised of experienced outdoor educators/instructors, and are American Canoe Association SUP Level 2 certified.

SUP is a great sport for Maine because we have so much beautiful water to explore, and SUP is appropriate for such a wide range of people. We have introduced the sport to kids, adults, and seniors. From people seeking a relaxed lake paddle to strong athletes who desire to blast downwind in elevated conditions, SUP has something to offer just about anybody. The full body “core” workout is amazing and yet it is a lot more fun than going to the gym (in our opinion). More importantly you get time outside and from a standing perspective you can witness the shear beauty of our area. For anyone considering buying gear and hitting the ocean, we STRONGLY recommend instruction that will develop your paddle skills, gear knowledge, and especially your judgment.

Learning to SUP should not feel intimidating. We teach our beginner lessons primarily on the lakes where the water is warm and the conditions can be more predictable. Mornings are usually best because there is less wind and chop. Our participants always comment that they got a lot more out of a lesson than they had thought. Similar to kayaking, you can just hop on and go forward – but there is much more too it than just splashing around. During a two hour lesson we focus on strokes (there are a lot more than you might imagine…), different stances, safety considerations, and gear/clothing overview. Starting from the ground up we show you several ways to propel your board, how to quickly rescue yourself, and we really focus on progressions that break down the various facets of the strokes/board control. As with any new activity it is about developing muscle memory. Our lessons are small and usually private. We adapt to each individual. For some getting up and paddling forward/turning can be enough, while others are doing pivot turns and learning to brace off their paddle by the end of a lesson.

Our intermediate to advanced programs can take your paddling, fitness, and judgment to a very high level. Our more advanced ocean SUP instruction/tours allow you to witness some amazing parts of the Maine Coast. Participants with the skills can literally ride the bumps (waves) downwind for miles.

SUP lessons are a blast. If you fall the landing is soft (maybe a little wet…) and we promise that any program with us will be more than just a basic tour. We provide skills, fun, fitness, and most importantly quality time outdoors. Consider a SUP lesson in Maine this summer. Grab your family/friends and experience a sport that suits our part of the world perfectly. See you on the water!

- Thor

Thor Emory is lead instructor and co-owner of Thorfinn Expeditions, an outdoor adventure/education business that is based in both Lincolnville Beach and Bar Harbor, Maine. Thorfinn specializes in sailing, stand up paddle boarding, and multi-sport programs. They also carry some of the best paddle sports gear available – SUP (Hobie, Tahoe SUP, Coreban, Kialoa, Quickblade) and kayak/surfski (Epic)


Paddling Maine with Thorfinn SUP

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

Midcoast Maine and Acadia National Park are premier paddling destinations in the United States. Thorfinn Expeditions leads group and private outings along the scenic and rugged coastline, as well as the interior lakes. Stand Up Paddling with Thorfinn provides a unique and unforgettable experience, leaving the paddlers with solid skill training and new perspective on the beauty of this area. Thorfinn SUP: sales, rentals, lessons and tours.