Highland Profiles is a series that aims to highlight West Virginia’s exemplary outdoor adventurers, business owners, and community innovators. If you’ve got someone in mind worthy of a profile, drop us a line: email@example.com.
Stand-up paddleboarding wasn’t Meghan Fisher’s first love, but it’s the one that hasn’t let her go. She was raised playing in the creeks of upstate New York. She learned to ocean surf in Hong Kong. In 2010, she moved to West Virginia to become a raft guide and discovered her inland obsession with whitewater. Back then, she never would have expected to end up living in Fayetteville and running her own stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) company eight years later.
When I caught up with Fisher of Mountain Surf Paddle Sports, it was clear that her paddleboard touring and instruction company wasn’t just a business—it had become her life’s passion. Her mission is to expand paddlesports to people who don’t typically end up on the water. She strives to extend outdoor adventure tourism into the rural regions surrounding Fayetteville by popularizing the natural paddleboarding paradises of Kanawha Falls and Summersville Lake. Fisher wants to shape the local industry’s approach to paddleboarding by becoming an ACA paddleboarding instructor trainer and getting other local guides ACA-certified. She also wants to expand the company, which currently offers SUP tours, rentals, clinics, and an introduction to whitewater paddling, to include her favorite aspect of the sport—river surfing.
Fisher’s excitement for SUPing and the future of the industry in Fayetteville is clear in the way her eyes light up when she talks about getting people out on paddleboards for their first time. When she describes the feeling of surfing a wave, she’s downright giddy. It’s inspiring, and I know I’m not the only one who wanted to get out on a SUP board after chatting with Fisher.
What brought you to West Virginia and, with all the traveling that you’ve done, what kept you here?
After applying to ten outdoor companies I was like, “I’ll take the first one that gets back to me,” and it was ACE. I don’t think I was ever on a river before I trained with them. I still travel in the winters but out of all the places I’ve been, West Virginia was the place I consistently came back to instead of just one or two years and then leaving. I think it was a mixture of the people, the diversity of things you could do, and if you look at all of the outdoor towns in the country, this one is definitely the most reasonable to live in price-wise, so it’s just kind of the perfect place.
“West Virginia was the place I consistently came back to… I think it was a mixture of the people, the diversity of things you could do, so it’s just kind of the perfect place.”
Do you remember your first encounter with stand-up paddleboarding? Was it love at first sight or did it evolve over time?
I wasn’t completely sold on it, my first experience with paddleboarding was with my now-husband Randy Fisher, so he was kind of getting me into it, but no, I didn’t love it. Flatwater paddleboarding I found boring, and it wasn’t until SUP surfing and more the whitewater paddling that I really started to appreciate it. Now, I appreciate the flatwater paddleboarding a lot more than I did at the beginning. It’s just a fantastic workout; you can go and crank out ten miles by yourself on the lake. It’s a lot of fun and super scenic.
Of all the different crafts to paddle, how did SUPing become your thing?
I think it’s just the diversity of it. You can go out and have a really mellow day, you can go out and fire up some whitewater, or you can hop out on a wave and just surf. And I think boarding is the perfect crossover for people getting into watersports. A lot of locals are very intimidated by whitewater rafting, whereas paddleboarding is kind of that first stepping stone. Going to the lake and paddleboarding is something almost anyone can do and I’m seeing a lot of different groups getting out and enjoying the water because of paddleboarding.
How do you think the perception of SUPing has changed since you first got involved with the sport?
It is a lot more accepted, and I see a lot more people who are involved with the outdoor industry wanting to do it. For instance, one of the biggest groups of people I had out on paddleboards this year was climbers. It started with them renting boards to get out to different spots on Summersville Lake to deep-water solo to the majority of people in [local whitewater SUP] clinics being climbers. I just thought it was so neat because they are typically a group of people who are like, “I like land, I like rocks, I don’t really want to do that whitewater stuff,” but it was getting them into whitewater and into paddling.
What inspired you to start Mountain Surf Paddle Sports?
I started to see that the perception of the paddleboarding trips here was more like, “Oh let’s just go jump on this board for fun,” but not really instructing people with the basics. I think it’s important to learn the proper techniques. At the time when I was starting, there wasn’t really anyone renting boards either, so I just saw an opportunity that there was this need for people teaching the proper way to do this and getting more boards out there for people to use. So I went and got my ACA instructor certification for paddleboarding and bought a trailer and a bunch of boards.
“I just saw an opportunity that there was this need for people teaching the proper way to do this and getting more boards out there for people to use.”
Where do you see the business going from here?
Obviously from the name Mountain Surf Paddle Sports, surfing is my passion and I hope there is a time when I can incorporate the surfing part in it, but right now it’s not really possible. What I want to do most with the business is expose these outdoor activities to more people that generally would be nervous to try them. I’m also working at becoming an ACA instructor trainer so I could then instruct courses to get other people ACA-certified in paddleboarding so we can make the paddleboarding industry here across all the companies more professional.
If you have the day off, where are you most likely to be found?
On the Gauley River surfing. Short-board river surfing is mainly what I do for fun. My smallest surfboard is a 5’5” glass board; it’s so much fun at Diagonal Ledges, and then I have a 7’ soft top that is really good at The Perfect Wave.
“It’s this mix between crazy adrenaline rush and then you’re on the wave and you look around and you are carving back and forth and it’s like this calm, zen feeling. It’s crazy that you can feel both of those things at the same time, but with river surfing, you can.”
You also SUP guide in Antarctica, how did you end up doing that?
I remember the exact moment I got this text message from my husband that said, “Hey do you want to teach SUP in Antarctica?” and I just said, “Of course.”
So, my husband is a team rider for Boardwork Surf, and one of his other team riders, Doug Stoup, owns a company called Ice Axe Expeditions. They do backcountry skiing all over the world, and they do a ski trip in Antarctica, and the company they use to take them down there is Quark Expeditions. Quark wanted to get into paddleboarding because they saw Doug brought a paddleboard down there. So Doug put the word out and I got in touch with him that day, and he put me in touch with Quark. I did some interviewing and paperwork and I was hired.
So, what is it like to go from teaching stand-up paddleboarding in West Virginia to teaching in Antarctica?
Obviously it’s a bit colder. The clientele in Antarctica is typically older. Ninety-percent of the people I teach paddleboarding to in Antarctica have never been on a paddleboard in their life. We only go out in really good conditions, so it’s glassy calm, no wind, and you are paddleboarding and you look around and there is no sign of human life. There are no buildings, no lights, no noise of humans. It’s just icebergs, seals swimming around, penguins swimming under your paddleboard, and almost half the time we are out paddleboarding we have encounters with whales.
Do you have any personal goals as far as places you want to surf?
This seems to be one of the best places just because there’s so much diversity with several different waves you can surf here. But, you see pictures of waves in different states and in Canada and I would just love to hop in a van and go on a road trip and just try them all.
Want to experience river surfing on some of the best waves on earth, try SUPing for the first time in the stunning waters around Fayetteville, or just get a bit of Fisher’s paddleboarding stoke? Hit her up at 304.785.4108, firstname.lastname@example.org, or stop by and inquire within Waterstone Outdoors.