Michael Fehling never imagined that he would be able to offer people the opportunity to walk on water — but that is among the options available at his kayak shop in Island Park, where stand-up pedal boards are in demand.
Pedal boarding made its Long Island debut last summer at Empire Kayaks, which Fehling co-owns with his wife, Gabrielle.
ABOUT THE SPORT
A derivative of a paddleboard, a pedal board is wider than its predecessor and simulates a stepping machine. It requires operators to use their legs to generate propulsion to travel over water.
“For some people who are less sure of their balance, these boards are a little bit more stable,” says Fehling, who’s hosted water activities on Middle Bay for the past 19 years.
The world’s first pedal board was released in California in 2016 by Hobie, a kayak and stand-up paddleboard manufacturer. The pedal board features a hull and a set of adjustable aluminum handlebars with calipers that connect to a rudder that allows the rider to change direction, brake and maneuver with relative ease.
“People just like the idea of being able to rest their hands on those bars,” says Fehling, 59, of Island Park. “It just gives them a sense of security.”
TAKING A PEDAL
Security on the water is something people like Mary Boquard have come to appreciate.
Boquard, 39, of Wantagh, tried pedal boarding a few times last summer at Empire Kayaks and enjoyed it so much that she bought one of Hobie’s latest designs, the Mirage Eclipse 12, the only pedal board on the market.
“It’s just such a fun way to be on the water,” Boquard says. The watercraft cost her a little more than $2,000, which she considers an investment in her health. A one-hour rental costs $30 at Empire Kayaks and $40 at Captain Kayak, which has locations in Sayville and East Quogue.
Boquard believes the pedal board offers a better workout than other water activities.
“I’m not just working my arms when I pedal board, I’m working my quads, glutes, core,” Boquard says.
The Fehlings say many of their customers, including Boquard, prefer traveling upright on a pedal board to sitting in a kayak. Some also believe the pedal board lends itself to spending more time on the water because of its handlebars.
“I was less fearful at going a farther distance because I had that stability,” Boquard says.
This watercraft was designed to address this concern.
“That’s what Hobie had in mind when they developed this . . . to get people who were less sure of their balance, who want to be out on a stand-up board but didn’t know whether they had the upper body strength and the balance to do it,” Fehling says. “It’s like you’re walking on water. And everybody would like to walk on water.”
Of course, a large part of the allure of the pedal board is also its rarity. Empire Kayaks is one of few places in the state to offer and sell the watercraft.
“It’s one of the more popular water activities now because people always want to try something new,” Fehling says.
The watercraft can be used in almost all weather.
“The disadvantage of stand-ups or what makes stand-up boards difficult is that the wind is always working against you,” Fehling says. “The advantage of the stand-up pedal board is that the pedals are always in the water.”
WHERE TO RENT PEDAL BOARDS
WHEN | WHERE 9 a.m.-5:45 p.m. weekdays (closed Tuesdays), opens at 8 a.m. weekends, 4 Empire Blvd., Island Park
INFO 516-889-8300, empirekayaks.com
COST $30 an hour rentals
WHEN | WHERE 23 River Rd., Sayville (631-750-3587) and 94 Dune Rd., East Quogue (631-484-0806)
COST $40 an hour rentals