Shop Talk: Explore Montana’s SUP Haven with Paddlefish Sports

Interview by Rebecca Parsons

Paddlefish Sports, located in stunning Whitefish Montana, is a little shop with big stoke. Despite being far from the ocean, this landlocked state is a paddling paradise home to breathtaking lakes, rivers, and reservoirs, riddled with paddling opportunities for all skill-levels. The outdoor adventure company offers rentals, lessons and clinics to give paddlers the base they need before setting off on their own adventure. Owners Sonny and Kim Schierl are well versed in the local area and they're more than willing to share their insight into the paddling playground with visitors. Here, Kim fills us in about the types of lessons Paddlefish offers, its fleet of boards and her recommendations for the best places to paddle in the area.

Tell us about the history of the shop.

Paddlefish Sports is Whitefish's original standup paddle board pro shop & Northwest Montana's only SUP-specific shop. Starting with a six-board fleet in April 2012, we've grown to have around forty boards in our rental fleet. It's been very fulfilling to collaborate with several local businesses to enable them to offer paddleboards for rent as well. We enjoy opportunities to create adventures, assist in setting and meeting goals, and encourage experiences that someone may not have.

What makes Whitefish an ideal place for SUP? 

We are rich in water resources here—there's an abundance of lakes, reservoirs and rivers less than an hour's drive from town. Beautiful, crystal clear water and stellar scenery in every direction. The rivers range from mild to wild and the lakes from quite small to the epic Flathead Lake and iconic Lake McDonald.

Tell us about some of the locations you frequent?  

There are several good maps for the local waterways available at local fly shops and rafting places. One of our go-to guidebooks is the Flathead National Forest Three Forks of the Flathead Wild & Scenic River Float Guide from the USDA Forest Service. We suggest picking up a copy of one of these excellent guides for yourself and start planning your adventure!

What does your client base look like?

Our customer base is about 80 percent beginners & tourists, and 20 percent experienced regulars/locals. More than 2.5 million people visit Glacier National Park each year and many of them will also come to Whitefish, as it's less than 30 miles away.

What kinds of lessons/tours do you offer?

We offer ACA-, WPA- and PaddleFit-certified SUP instruction on an individual or group basis, Yoga On Board and Pilates On Board sessions. Also watch for SUP fitness workouts, races and fun casual group paddles. We also host clinics, such as a whitewater skills clinic with Brittany Parker & Natali Zollinger of RVR2RVR. For the future, we are considering hosting an expedition-focused clinic and also looking at a SUP-yoga based clinic. We've also been known to occasionally head out for full moon paddles.

Are you open year-round?

The rental shop is open Memorial Day to Labor Day. In the off season, we still paddle as much as possible, even though it's winter. Fall here is especially beautiful and there's very little tourist traffic to contend with; it's like you've got Glacier Park all to yourself.

What kind of boards do you sell?

We sell Fanatic, Glide, Riviera, BOGA, Rogue, YOLO, & Red Paddle Company boards. We sell QuickBlade Paddles and also carry NRS & ION products.

What has been the most rewarding part about running the shop?

The smiles!  Having a positive impact on people and leaving them with a good first impression of the sport so that they look forward to doing it again and again!

And the sense of community. We have met and become friends with some wonderful people through the sport of SUP. We're grateful for those connections, and really can't imagine life any other way.

Photos courtesy of Paddlefish Sports.

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