We Tried Stand-Up Paddleboarding at Summerfest

We’re so glad we found one of Summerfest’s hidden gems!

My dad has a motto: “Never be embarrassed.” And so, kneeling on a paddleboard in the Lake Michigan marina with people staring at me from the shore, I took the risk of falling in the lake and shifted up on my feet. I gave stand-up paddleboarding a try.

The stand-up paddleboarding, along with kayaking, is free at Summerfest this year, courtesy of L.L. Bean. You can sign up for 45-minute time slots that start every hour, on the hour. The first day of time slots, as L.L. Bean employee Matthew Stoller told me, filled up within an hour and a half of Summerfest’s opening day.

I had never gone stand-up paddleboarding before. The employees advised kneeling until I felt comfortable, which I did until I had been on the water for 5-10 minutes. The transition from kneeling to standing was easier than I expected.

One thing to note here: Try to avoid looking at your feet. When I stared at my board, I felt wobbly and shaky, but that went away when I looked at the water or the shoreline.

Even though I didn’t end up needing it, I had a towel in the car in case I fell in. Stoller told me only one person has fallen in the water all week.

L.L. Bean offered these activities last year at  Summerfest, but they weren’t free. The employees couldn’t remember exactly how much it cost, but estimate between $10 to $15 per session

If you’re planning to go to Summerfest during its last few days, I would highly recommend checking this out. Seeing Summerfest from the water let me see how cool of a festival it really is. Actually it gave me a whole new view of Milwaukee; it was a new perspective that’s definitely worth trying.

Others agreed with me. A woman behind me in line calls it a “hidden gem of Summerfest.” Another participant, Erin Bahm, 20, says she thought it was awesome she had the opportunity; she hadn’t known about it until getting to Summerfest.

The stand-up paddleboarding didn’t start until Friday of last week due to an equipment mishap. The “fin” is the piece of the paddleboard that slices into the water underneath the board to keep it moving in a straight direction. Unexpectedly, all of the fins were left in a different trailer, so the SUP kickoff was delayed. 

Regardless of the little blip, it’s now in full swing and worth your time if you want to get out on the water.