The Cleveland National Airshow is one of Cleveland's end of summer traditions and last weekend's show with the Blue Angels brought huge crowds to the edge of Lake Erie. At the conclusion of Sunday's show we wandered the docks in front of Shooters and Music Box Supper Club on the east bank of the Cuyahoga River to watch the parade of watercraft streaming in from the lake. It was great to see the air show armada with its array of powered boats, jet skis and kayaks sharing the same body of water.
As we scanned the river we noticed how it was quickly becoming an aquatic version of rush-hour - and then in the midst of the maelstrom we noticed a single stand-up paddleboarder powering his way into the procession. Clearly an experienced paddler, he navigated his way down the middle of the Cuyahoga River with confidence and ease through the rough chop, eventually looping back to the Great Lakes Watersports dock.
After catching his breath and taking a photo for three young visitors, we had a beer and a chat with the intrepid paddler, Bill Cochrane, owner of Nalu Standup Paddle & Surf in Rocky River. Cochrane's post air-show paddle was prompted by his having to work on Sunday, coupled with an inability to join fellow paddlers at Edgewater Park and Whiskey Island. "I heard the roads into both places were jammed so I put in upriver at Merwin's Wharf. I already had a good idea what was up ahead as I noticed the number of boats heading south past Merwin's. When I rounded the corner by Jacobs Pavilion I saw river traffic like I've never seen before. I had to have my head on a swivel for a while as some of the boats had no idea what a no wake zone was". When asked if he received any comments during his paddle Cochrane replied "One girl said "You're awesome" while another guy said "Way to go Fabio""
Bill's also the man behind "Paddles & Pints", a weekly get-together of like-minded standup paddleboarders who have been launching Thursday evenings from Cleveland Metroparks Merwin's Wharf or Wendy Park for a one-hour tour of the lower Cuyahoga River or Lake Erie. "We're building a community and everyone gets along. Typically half of the group are regulars, with the other half coming from people new to the sport" said Calhoun. "Whether you're a competitive or a casual paddler, all are welcome, and there's nothing better than a cold beer at the end of the paddle session! (often at Brick & Barrel)". Most of the paddlers bring their own board but Calhoun also provides board rentals on a reservation basis. "We're going to run Paddles & Pints through September and maybe we'll do a different version in fall".
Cochrane's "Paddles & Pints" posse is the newest recreational stakeholder on the Cuyahoga River, joining rowers from Cleveland Rowing Foundation and The Foundry, the Cleveland Dragonboat Association and assorted kayakers. When asked about their place on a river that serves as a major conduit for commercial traffic, Cochrane said "We strive to be as proactive as we can. It's a working river and we're sharing space with some really big ships and it's important to know where they are and stay out of their way. We also want to be courteous to the rowers so we stay to the right of the river and let them take the center lane".
"StandUp paddleboarding is the fastest growing watersport right now - you can do it on any body of water and almost anyone can do it" says Cochrane. "We have a core group of competitive paddlers. At the end of September, 10 of them will be going to the Pacific Paddlegames in Dana Point, CA. And next spring we're looking to launch an adaptive paddleboard program for anyone who wants to get out on the water. We want to be the conduit for that, but we need to partner with local organizations who serve individuals with special needs." In the meantime, if you see Bill out on the water, give him a "Hey Hotsauce Cochrane" shout-out!