From groms to grandpas, the folks at Idaho River Sports in Boise, Idaho have helped get people into paddling for over 25 years. How? It’s easy to get people into something you love to do. For everyone who works at IRS, the water life is their life. Co-owner Jo Cassin has canoed, kayaked and rafted, since the ’70s. "My business partner, Stan Kolby, and I started the store in 1987. We both loved to paddle, and the rest is history." —Tom Fucigna
SUP mag: How did you first get into standup?
Cassin: I had seen photos in magazines, but the first time I saw somebody on a standup paddleboard was in 2008 on Redfish Lake in the Sawtooth Mountains. Honestly, I thought it looked a little silly. I didn't get it. I had recently broken my ankle and was doing rehab, and it looked like it might be good exercise to help my ankle heal and get stronger, so I tried it. The water in Redfish Lake is crystal clear, and from the vantage point of standing up I could see deep into the lake. It was beautiful. It surprised me how much I enjoyed it.
SUP mag: Why did you decide to get into the SUP market?
Cassin: About four years ago, some of us here at the shop purchased a few boards for ourselves and started using them, and then all of our friends and customers wanted them too.
SUP mag: What features of your location make it appealing for standup paddling?
Cassin: Even though the nickname for Idaho is the "Whitewater State," we have plenty of flat water, plus easy whitewater rivers, to paddle. There are numerous options for every level of difficulty. Just out the back door of our shop we have Quinn’s Pond, and the Boise River runs through town.
The recently completed Boise Whitewater Park, where kayakers, surfers and standup paddlers love to paddle, is near us on the Boise River. The Park includes a water control structure with adjustable “wave shapers” which allow paddlers and surfers to play on the wave. It was built in 2012, at the site of an old diversion dam, after years of planning and fundraising to provide a whitewater park project that could simultaneously repair, improve and naturalize the river’s channelized path and improve water quality. We are still fundraising to do more work downstream to improve fishing habitat and create more features for paddlers.
SUP mag: What SUP-related activities do your customers like?
Cassin: We offer SUP Yoga and Fitness Boot Camps, but we also have people who go on extended camping trips backpack-style on SUP boards. Many people take inflatable SUPs on river trips down the Main Salmon and Middle Fork of the Salmon. Inflatables have been very popular with river runners because they can be easily and quickly inflated or deflated and stored on rafts or larger boats. There are some sections on those rivers that are perfect for SUPing. Fishing and bird watching are also popular, and lots of people SUP-fish. Many people take their dogs along too.
SUP mag: What brands of gear do you stock?
Cassin: We sell BIC, Glide, Lucky Bums, Surftech, Aire, Starboard and NRS boards, and paddles by Werner, Kialoa, BIC and Sawyer. We also carry locally produced paddling and outdoor products by Salamander, NRS and Core Concepts, plus paddling gear, clothing and accessories by Patagonia, Aventura, Olukai and Teva.
SUP mag: Do you sponsor any events?
Cassin: We sponsor Fall and Spring Paddle Classic SUP Races. The Fall Paddle Classic is a low key, fun race series held on Tuesday evenings in September and October on Quinn’s Pond, next to our shop. We run an obstacle course race, a “distance” race and a sprint with divisions for canoes, kayaks and SUPs, but there are far more SUPs. It’s nice to have different kinds of paddle craft and paddlers. Some of the racers are super serious, and there can be a bit of bumping and rubbing, and people sometimes get knocked off their boards, while other racers have their dogs, and even their kids, with them and are really in it for the camaraderie, exercise and fun. We have fun prizes and awards each evening.
Another fun event we do is the HULL-o-ween float, costume contest and parade. We dress up in Halloween costumes and paddle laps around the pond. Judges pick the best costumes and prizes are awarded. Lots of people come out to watch and there is a big potluck feast after the parade.
We are very active in the local community, and we've been helping the city to develop paddling opportunities on the Boise River, right in town.
We host a Paddle-and-Potluck every Thursday night on Quinn’s Pond. We fire up the barbecue and fire pit, and our local microbrewery brings beverages. Sometimes we even get musicians. We paddle for an hour or two, then eat, drink and socialize. We have the river version of that on Wednesday nights on the Boise River. We also do full moon floats most months.
SUP mag: Do you have any standout standup locals?
Cassin: Michelle Tullis is our fitness boot camp SUP instructor, and she inspires so many women and men with her fun, challenging workouts. She loves SUP and her passion for the sport really comes through to her students. Michelle knows how to make the exercises work for so many levels.
Jeff Banks, another local standout standup paddler, helped design and build the SUP company Glide. Jeff and his company support many SUP events locally and nationally. They build durable boards specifically designed for running rivers, which handle the river rocks very well. We sell a ton of Glide boards.
SUP mag: What else would you like people to know about your shop?
Cassin: We are committed to being good neighbors, helping to protect the environment and serving the boating community in an area that offers some of the world’s best water for kayaking, canoeing, rafting, and standup paddling. We love what we do!