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On the Job

Business owner’s career is ‘like walking on water’

Justin Labdon helped Lynn Koch make a paddle board purchase.

Julia Cumes for the Boston Globe

Justin Labdon helped Lynn Koch make a paddle board purchase.

Justin Labdon is founder and owner of Adventure Chatham, a vacation outfitter specializing in stand-up paddle boards. The Cape Cod business sells and rents paddle boards, while offering lesson and tours.

When riding a paddle board, said Labdon, a Cape native, the top is only an inch or two above the waterline, bringing you much closer to the water that on a boat or other watercraft.

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“From a distance,” he said, “stand-up paddle boarding looks exactly like walking on water.”

Is there more to stand-up paddling than meets the eye?

For basic stand-up paddle boarding, there really isn’t that much you need to know. There is definitely a sweet spot on the board, though. That’s the best spot for balance. Paddlers also should be familiar with different paddle strokes. It can get a lot more technical. But for general family fun and just going out to the pond and paddling around, it’s a quick learning curve.

What’s the latest gear for stand-up paddle boarding?

As the sport has progressed, boards have gone from looking like big surfboards to more specialized niches. Displacement boards are longer and more streamlined, shaped almost like a sailboat or kayak. They cut through the water 30 to 40 percent better and handle open chop better.

Is it a good workout?

I like to compare it to biking, which can be either leisurely or strenuous, depending on how much effort you put into it. With paddle boarding, if the paddle motion is done properly, using your body and not arms, it develops core body strength. Going into the wind and waves is even more of a challenge.

How did stand-up paddle boarding get started?

Some say that back in the 1950s, Hawaiian surf instructors would stand on their surfboards to take photos of their students. About a decade ago, big-name surfer guys like Laird Hamilton reintroduced the sport, experimenting with new types of boards that could be used even where there were no waves. From there it really took off.

What are the best places to go stand up paddle boarding?

It’s important that newbie stand-up paddle boarders learn their paddle skills on flat water before venturing out into the surf lineup, both for their safety and that of others. I try to direct people to the freshwater ponds that are so abundant on the Cape.

Ever seen any sharks?

I’ve never seen a great white shark, but if you wear polarized sunglasses, you can see tons of fish, crabs, and starfish. In the Chatham Harbor, the seals will pop up right next to you.

Cindy Atoji Keene can be reached at cindy@cindyatoji.com.
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