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Whether you sink or swim, burn or tan, sit or play volleyball, when you’re frequenting the beaches of Michigan, it’s easy to spot a Paddlebuoy.

Some choose to sit and paddle, others prefer the added challenge of standing and propelling through the lakes, but you’ll never see one sitting idly in the sand. When you have a ten foot buoyant board, there’s generally no reason to leave the water all day.

Purchased by Tom and Susan Wiltse in the 1970s and relocated to Elk Rapids in the early 80s, what began as just a board mold and some tools quickly evolved into a thriving year-round family business.

The boards, which now come in three ways, are known for their remarkable buoyancy and relevancy in the field of Red Cross and life guard training.

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I spoke with Tom Wiltse, who pointed out that when this board was first made in the 50s, it was only for institutions like these. Today, 50 percent of Paddlebuoy’s business is still to lifeguards and first aid responders, as well as summer camps. These boards are built to last for years, so once you invest, you’re good to go!

The Classic, a $279 board, weighs fifteen pounds and has a soft surface, perfect for sitters and/or standers under 160 pounds. The Classic II is a more dent-resistant version of its sister board and remains a dog lover’s favorite as it holds up to 380 pounds! Finally, the Pro With Mooring Eye, the most elaborate board, has a built in tie hole on the nose of the board, allowing sunbathers to easily hook up to the nearest boat or dock. (Don’t forget to buy your hand-made matching paddle!)

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If this article made you want to go buy a Paddlebuoy paddleboard NOW, then by all means, head to the website and order one. If you’d like to see it to believe it, Paddlebuoy has twelve retail locations throughout Michigan and the surrounding states. The online program services nationwide retail. The biggest retailer, which is pretty much guaranteed to have actual boards to browse, is the Elk River Marina, an easy stop as you enjoy the beaches, cuisine and events Elk Rapids has to offer. After you have a few days to practice, make sure you join the annual Paddlebuoy races during Harbor Days, an event that locals and travelers look forward to.

~ Lyndsay Israel, Feature Writer