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  • Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine

Napa Valley Paddle - The perfect way to explore the Napa River

Drew Dickson, owner of Napa Valley Paddle, located inside Napa River Velo, gets a far away look when asked what makes paddle boarding so appealing. “You get a sense of freedom on a board. Just you, the board, and the water. It’s a strong connection to the tides and wind.”

Dickson has been on the water since childhood. His dad, the late Dave Dickson, managed the flood control effort from inception to the passage of Measure A. The senior Dickson was also an avid surfer. Predictably, family vacations for the Dicksons were spent surfing. In 2010, Dave switched to paddle boarding, and Drew paddled with him.

Dickson loves everything about paddle boarding – the meditative state of paddling alone, and the social aspects of being on-water with a group. “In our digital world, there is less and less human connection. When you’re on a board, you unplug and connect with people in a natural environment.”

Dickson is the winemaker for Andrew Lane Winery. One summer, he invited the wine club members to go paddle boarding, and they loved it. “During those first few paddles, several members remarked, ‘this is the best day of my summer,’” said Dickson. “That’s when we knew we had a winner. They got to discover a beautiful river, learned a new sport, and finished with a gourmet culinary experience and glass of Napa Gamay Beaujolais.” Dickson knew then that paddle boarding wasn’t just a fad, and the seed that became Napa Valley Paddle was planted.

Napa Valley Paddle offers a variety of experiences. “Our trips are flat water paddling supported by the winds and tides. You just go with the flow,” said Dickson. Paddlers can shuttle back, and avoid headwind. “The most impressive four mile stretch of the Napa River offers the full transition from salt water wetlands to fresh water forests, with the city in the middle.” Outings vary, and include everything from a picnic lunch from the Fatted Calf to BBQ Oysters served with champagne.. “Our Carneros excursion is set against a champagne vineyard backdrop with views of both Mt. Diablo and Mt. Tamalpais.”

First time renters are offered structured lessons with their tour, and learn from the guide as they go. Paddle boarding is easy, and in Dickson’s mind, much safer than kayaking. “Worst thing that can happen on paddle board is you fall into the water,” said Dickson, “And on a hot summer day, that’s where everybody wants to be anyway.”

Napa Valley Paddle also rents kayaks equipped for fishing. “We offer the broadest curriculum of water sports in Napa and Sonoma counties, specializing in the largely undiscovered northern reach of San Pablo Bay.” Trips are offered on the Napa River, the Carneros Preserve and Petaluma River.

Napa Valley Paddle has recently landed distribution rights for Red Paddle Company out of Vancouver, Canada. Red is the only inflatable paddle board the executive director of the Stand Up Paddle Association, Kristin Thomas, has put her name behind because the technology is changing the industry. “Red Paddle removed eight pounds of glue and achieved a level of rigidity which for the first time is comparable to carbon fiber. These boards inflate to 25 psi vs the industry standard 15 psi and bring your feet 33% closer to the water. This is the most rigid, inflatable paddle board available, and at just 22 lbs, it rolls up into a backpack” said Dickson. “Although paddle boarding is often related to surfing it’s more accurate to compare the sport to bicycling because of the accessibility it provides (to water) and broad based appeal.”

Dickson fully appreciates being so close to the Napa River. “We’re fortunate to have the river environment in our backyard. No better way to experience it than riding the tides on a stand up paddle board.”

Visit their website at, or call 707-666-1628 for tour reservations or information.


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