Learning to paddleboard is a bit like learning to walk: newbies start on their knees then spend some shaky time mastering how to rise and balance. But the learning curve proves short.
“Within 10 minutes, most of our students are ready to stand up,” says Gary Stone, who owns Paddleboard Specialists at Lake Mendota in Madison, Wisconsin.
The smooth, no-wake lake is ideal for learning standup paddleboarding (SUP) and getting comfortable with unfamiliar equipment. A wide, flat board provides plenty of stability (some peace-seekers even practice yoga on their boards), and a wide paddle produces maximum propulsion with minimum effort.
Perhaps that’s why SUP is one of the fastest growing sports in the country. In a 2013 report, the Outdoor Foundation noted that SUP drew more first-timers than any other outdoor sport. So if you decide to give this rising sport a shot, don’t worry about the shaky start—you’ll be in good company.
More to Explore
To plan your trip, contact the Greater Madison Convention and Visitors Bureau. (608) 255-2537; www.visitmadison.com 
What to do
Paddleboard Specialists Take 75-minute standup paddleboarding lessons for $45, including gear. (877) 473-1199; paddleboardspecialists.com 
Dane County Farmers Market On Saturday mornings year-round and summer Wednesday mornings, stroll the largest producer-only farmers market in the nation. (608) 455-1999; dcfm.org 
Betty Lou Cruises Hop aboard a yacht for a history-filled tour of lakes Mendota and Monona. (608) 246-3138; bettyloucruises.com 
Where to eat
Marigold Kitchen Brioche French toast and pancakes fuel a day on the water. (608) 661-5559; marigoldkitchen.com 
Tipsy Cow This pub’s farm-to-table focus makes for überfresh goat-cheese curds and burgers. (608) 287-1455; tipsycowmadison.com 
Where to stay
Hyatt Place Nestled between lakes Mendota and Monona, this hotel puts much of Madison in walking distance. From $149. (608) 257-2700; madisondowntown.place.hyatt.com