When Kyle Ellison moved from Maui to the banks of Asheville’s French Broad, he says he noticed something very familiar he hadn’t seen in a while. “You walk by the river with a paddleboard,” he says, “and everyone is curious, coming up and asking you about that weird board you’re carrying.”
So Ellison decided to change that — by starting Wai Mauna Asheville SUP Tours — a company that offers guided tours as well as paddleboard rentals. “Wai Mauna” is Hawaiian for “mountain water.”
Here’s Ellison’s announcement:
While stand up paddleboading isn’t exactly a new activity in Asheville, it still remains on the general fringe compared to rafting or tubing. Having watched the sport explode, however, in Hawaii and across the country, Ellison feels that Asheville is primed for stand up paddling to take off.
Unlike other rental companies, however, Wai Mauna Asheville SUP Tours does things a little differently than other companies in town. For one thing, portions of proceeds are directly donated to the nonprofit RiverLink, where $5 of every tour and $2 of every rental is donated back to the river.
Another option unique to Asheville is a “dawn patrol,” sunrise tour—an activity unlike any other in Western North Carolina.
“Sunrise on the river is peaceful,” says Ellison, “and totally underrated. The fog is slowly lifting from the water, the sky is ablaze in orange and red, and you have the entire river all to yourself—it’s the best way to start the day.”
If the 5:30am start time is a little too early, Wai Mauna offers tours and paddleboard rentals at four times throughout the day, with shuttles departing the River Arts District at 5:45am, 8:45am, 1:45pm, and 4:45pm. Guests can park in the grassy lot just north of the Cotton Mill Studio, and complimentary transportation is provided to Hominy Creek. All guided tours and paddleboard rentals begin on Hominy Creek itself, and finish approximately four miles downstream just north of Jean Webb Park. When finished, the Wedge Brewing Company and 12 Bones Smokehouse are a five-minute walk away, as are the artisan studios and shops of the popular River Arts.
Lastly, if you’re an Asheville visitor, history buff—or even a longtime local—Wai Mauna offers guided historical tours that highlight the history of Asheville. On tours, guests learn everything from the area’s settlement to trivia about the French Broad, and hear stories from the Flood of 1916 and its effect on the River Arts.
For more information, call (808) 264-3005, or visit online at www.waimaunaashevillesuptours.com.