By: Zach Sweat, Contributing Writer
Surfing is king when it comes to water sports in Jacksonville, but two UNF volleyball players have set out to change that.
During the last Fall semester, Allison Shirley and Cameron McGuire started a club called
SUP JAX to introduce the sport of paddle boarding to UNF students and the Jacksonville
“It hasn’t really blown up yet in Jacksonville,” Shirley said.
Shirley and McGuire both have a history of surfing and participating in water sports but
have only been stand-up paddle boarding for about two years. McGuire said her
father made both her and Shirley their first paddleboards in his garage.
McGuire said she likes the surfing aspect of paddle boarding more, while Shirley prefers
racing. Shirley recently competed in two paddle boarding races in the fall and plans to
race in the future.
Shirley thinks the Jacksonville area is a prime location for paddle boarding, with its
lakes, waterways and beaches. UNF’s lakes offer abundant places to practice the sport
and are free to students.
So far, the club has had two demos, both during the fall 2011 semester, with plans to
host more in the near future for students and the Jacksonville public.
“Anybody can come paddle around. It should be fun,” McGuire said. “Even if no one has
ever paddled before, we’ll teach you how. It’s easy to learn once you get the feel for it.”
The demo will offer free paddle boards for students and the community to ride. The
event will feature events such as tandem racing where two participants share a board
during a competition.
In addition to the demos, SUP JAX has also conducted several beach cleanups and
plans to have more in the future. The cleanups benefit not only Jacksonville’s beaches
but also the nonprofit organization Mother Ocean.
The girls plan to have paddle boards available on campus in the future. Once completed,
students will have access to the boards just as they do canoes and kayaks from Eco-Adventure.
Shirley said she would like to see not only UNF offer these boards but additional
campuses, as well.
Both Shirley and McGuire are players on UNF’s sand volleyball team, as well as the indoor team. With school and volleyball taking up much of their time, the girls use paddle boarding as a way to escape the stress of life.
“We’re busy with everything, but paddle boarding is our outlet,” Shirley said. “We go out
to the beach or the lake whenever we have time.”
The two said they plan to continue paddle boarding after college.
Shirley plans to race professionally in the future at events such as Battle of the
Paddle in California.
“I want to race professionally after volleyball. That’s my goal,” said Shirley.
SUP JAX plans on creating additional demos, lessons and beach clean-ups
for the upcoming Summer and Fall semesters.
“Hopefully, as things grow with the club, we’ll be able to do more things,” Shirley
said. “We have bigger things planned for the fall.”
For additional information about the club, friend SUP JAX on Facebook to get on an
email list for upcoming events and score some sweet SUP JAX merchandise.