When a friend told Rob Macias about a stand up paddle board race while they were a few margaritas into a backyard barbecue, he immediately accepted the challenge. Never mind that the race was the very next day and he had no experience on a stand up paddle board. Macias was confident that his athletic background and love of a challenge would set him up for success on the “short” 5-mile race.
“Stand up paddling is easy itself,” says Macias, five years removed from that first race attempt. “Racing 5 miles with zero knowledge of what I was doing… Let’s just say I ate a big slice of humble pie that day. I was hooked.”
Macias had spent 18 years managing fine-dining restaurants and nightclubs and was beginning to grow restless. Despite the humbling introduction to stand up paddling, it sparked an idea. “The very next day a light went on,” he says. “Here was an amazing sport that lifted everyone’s spirits, got people outdoors and could be done by anyone. I also saw the business potential to do something that had yet to be done in our area.”
A Sacramento native who spent time living in Hawaii, Macias was confident Sacramento was the perfect place for SUP. “We have a solid six months of beautiful weather for outdoor activities in Sacramento,” Macias says. “We are surrounded by lakes and rivers, and the active culture in our city makes it easy to find people to paddle with.”
Macias founded FLOW Stand Up Paddle in 2012 and hasn’t looked back. “The sport itself has grown to a level of popularity that, on just about any week from May through October, you can find a nice day, someone to join you and a body of water to paddle on. If you can’t, call me.”
FLOW has a fleet of boards suited for all skill levels, and Macias and his team provide individual or group lessons as well as organized outings and events like SUP With Pup, SUP yoga and ladies-only sessions. “People’s ability to stand up paddle is much greater than their perception of how challenging it may be,” he says of introducing people to the sport. “If they take a proper lesson from a professional, 99.9 percent of them are off and cruising in no time.” Macias works carefully to set his clients up for success, choosing a board and location suited to their needs. “When someone’s ability to meet a challenge is in perfect sync with the challenge level itself, they are in a perfect state of flow. It’s almost euphoric. I absolutely love watching people achieve that level of happiness. I could be having the worst day, but then I’ll teach a lesson and leave floating on cloud nine.”
For paddlers who have successfully taken a lesson or are already competent paddlers, FLOW has a weekly Friday event all summer long that’s a great way to get some practice and have some fun. “Our signature event is our Friday Night Social, and it’s always packed,” says Macias. “We guide you to Crawdads on the River, stop there for appetizers, and just before sunset we get back on the water and float down the river home. It’s a cheap event to join and intended to bring paddlers together.”
Since launching FLOW, Macias has expanded the brand to include FLOW World Travel, offering SUP-focused adventure travel to locales such as Panama, Thailand, St. Martin and Spain.
Stand Up Guy: Rob Macias, founder of FLOW Stand Up Paddle, dips and glides near Camp Pollock on the American River.
WHERE TO SUP
Sutter’s Landing: Located off 28th Street near the newly developed McKinley Village, Sutter’s Landing boasts a sandy beach and plenty of free parking. A shallow shoreline and calm waters make for a beginner-friendly SUP experience, and there’s an iconic rope swing in case you’re looking for even more adventure.
Camp Pollock: Off Northgate Boulevard and Garden Highway, Camp Pollock is a hidden gem along a wide, deep spot in the American River, with perfect conditions for low current and a glassy surface. Hit the water an hour before sunset for one of the best views in town.
Lake Natoma: If you’re looking for a zero-current environment, head east to Lake Natoma. Parking will set you back $10, but the water is calm and clean and you’re sure to see lots of other paddlers (both SUP and kayak) to assure you that you’re not crazy.