Words by Rebecca Parsons
SUP Kentucky is a SUP outfitter centered around one word: adventure. Owners, Aaron Koch and Heather Warman originally opened shop as a way to spend more time together. They acquired a few boards and began offering weekend lessons on their local waterways. Word spread like wildfire and they quickly realized they needed to make a full-time go at the business. Both quit their day jobs and took to the water.
“Kentucky has over 1,900 miles of designated navigable waterways and the highest total of inland designated navigable waterways for any state in the continental USA,” said Warman. “Our weather is fairly temperate and in addition to the water, we have bourbon, horses and rock climbing.”
Although the couple calls Lexington their home, the majority of their tours take place an hour or two outside of town. Their most popular tour is the Cavern Glow SUP Adventure but they also offer a trip to Cumberland Falls, Grayson Lake and an introductory SUP class.
The Cavern Glow SUP Adventure is a 1.5 mile, one-hour tour that takes place just outside of Natural Bridge State Park. Guests spend a few minutes getting comfortable on the water before donning headlamps and paddling into a historic limestone mine. Once inside the cavern, paddlers are greeted by cool air, still waters and spacious caverns. Boards are equipped with LED lights, making for a truly unique SUP experience.
“I think people love the thrill of the darkness and being eighty-feet underground,” said Warman of the tour. “The LED lights cast a beautiful glow. It’s a pretty incredible combination.”
Often referred to as the “Niagara of the South,” Cumberland Falls flows over a 250 million year old rock situated on the Cumberland River. On this adventure, guests paddle to the base of the falls where they are surrounded by massive boulders and are close enough to feel the mist from the falls. In addition to daytime tours on the Cumberland, SUP Kentucky also offers evening Moonbow tours. The Moonbow occurs exclusively during a full moon when light is reflected and refracted off water droplets in the air, creating a rainbow of sorts. While the majority of park visitors will witness the phenomenon from the trails above, SUP Kentucky offers guests the rare opportunity to watch from the water.
Located in Carter and Elliot counties, Grayson Lake is a reservoir that was created by the United States Army Corps of Engineers in 1968. The tour offers a quiet paddle through the sandstone cliffs of the lake with views of waterfalls scattered throughout. A highlight of the tour is a hidden grotto fall located at the end of a narrow slot canyon. The longest of all of SUP Kentucky’s adventures, the tour lasts four hours and includes breaks for swimming and lunch.
In addition to their spring and summertime adventures, SUP Kentucky offers remote retreats during the winter months. Their trips include an opportunity to paddle with the manatees in Florida as well as a number of all-inclusive options in Mexico. In an effort to keep things interesting for repeat customers, they plan to offer a rotating trip each year, the first of which will take place among the breathtaking fjords in Norway.
Although SUP Kentucky’s tours are exciting and adventurous, they are all completely safe and suited for both beginner and expert paddlers alike. Both Heather and Aaron are first aid, CPR and swift water rescue trained. Additionally, Heather is a certified environmental educator and Aaron is a master class captain with years of water training. Both are passionate about what they do and are excited to share the joy of paddling with their clients.
“The best part about running SUP Kentucky is sharing our love of the water with our clients and making the great outdoors our office!”
The article was originally published on Standup Paddling
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