Matthew White of the town of Lafayette spent his childhood wakeboarding and waterskiing.
So for the project engineer, opening a watersports rental shop on Lake Wissota was a natural fit.
White’s Rentals Paddle Shop sits next to the SandBar and Grill, 17643 50th Avenue, in Lafayette. Thirty yards away, stairs lead down to a quiet Lake Wissota inlet.
The shop opened three weeks ago, and while the kayaks and canoes are a hit with the community, White said, it’s the paddleboards that have made a real splash.
The shop’s beginner paddleboard classes have filled up rapidly, White said.
Paddleboarders typically kneel or stand on a large board in the water while using a paddle to navigate.
“Eight people go out at the same time,” White said at the shop’s ribbon cutting Thursday. “They’re trying to learn a few basics, learn how to balance ... It seems a little intimidating at first, but it’s something I think people really dig.”
The shop is open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays to start, White said.
People can rent boards, kayaks or canoes by the hour, by the day or for multiple days.
Thrill-seekers aren’t limited to Lake Wissota.
“We’ve already rented kayaks to people for Mount Simons Park (in Eau Claire),” White said.
Thursday, Chippewa Falls Area Chamber of Commerce members and Lafayette officials honored the shop’s opening.
“We’re so excited about this new tourism addition,” said Jackie Boos, Chamber of Commerce tourism director. “When it’s warm, we field so many calls from folks not from the area, or who are looking for canoes or paddleboards.”
“I know this’ll be a good endeavor for Lake Wissota,” town of Lafayette chairman Dave Staber said.
Classes and rentals aren’t the only thing White wants to offer. He plans to keep an eye on the different water sports that are popular on Lake Wissota, and will consider expanding with more paddleboards, canoes or kayaks in the future.
Thursday night, Eau Claire yoga studio Latitude 44 was slated to host three sessions at the board shop.
White says he wants to make Lake Wissota a “hotspot” for leisurely water activities.
“Right now you have boats with motors everywhere,” he said. “Maybe you’ll see one day that there’ll be more people out there just paddling.”