Wherever New Fairfield's Kristin Hart went in San Diego in 2008, she noticed groups of people standing up and paddling in the water while balancing on boards.
"I probably saw these people for three years. Sometimes I would see them while I was surfing on the ocean, and other times I would see them while I was on the beach.
"What they were doing looked so cool. From a distance you couldn't see there was anything under them, so it looked like they were walking on water. I wanted to try it," said Hart, 30, who is a full time freelance web producer.
Stand-up paddle surfing, stand-up paddleboarding, or SUP, is a surface water sport. The surfer stands on a surfboard and uses a paddle to move through the water. It's a combination of surfing and traditional canoeing and kayaking.
"SUP is a very low-impact sport that tones and strengthens your core and every muscle in your body. Your momentum is what helps you move. As you gain momentum, you can pull the board steady," Hart said.
Stand-up paddle surfing burns between 400 and 1,000 calories an hour, according to Florida resident Brody Welte, Hart's certified paddle-fitness instructor.
According to Stand Up Paddle Global Magazine, the sport originated in the Hawaiian Islands in the early 1960s, when people would stand on long boards in the water to take pictures of tourists learning to surf.
By the early 2000s, Hawaiian surfers used it as an alternative way to train when the surf was down.
Once Hart took her first stand-up paddle surfing lesson, she realized the sport was as much fun as it looked. Before long, she was doing it four to five times a week.
"I love it. To me, there is something about being on flat calm water. It's very soothing, taking in nature, such as lakes and beautiful green mountains," Hart said.
Hart grew up in New Fairfield and spent her summers swimming, boating and fishing on Candlewood Lake. She graduated from Salve Regina University in Newport, R.I., and moved to California in 2003. She returned to her hometown in April.
"When I came back to New Fairfield, I did some research and couldn't find any stand-up paddleboarding classes offered in this area. So I established the Candlewood Stand Up Paddleboard business," said Hart, who is ACE (American Council on Exercise) Paddle Fit certified, as well lifeguard and CPR/first aid certified.
Through her business, Hart is teaching private and group lessons, and giving instruction to campers. She thinks local residents have really taken a liking to the West Coast sport.
New Milford's Kathleen L'Hommedieu, who has been a competitive rower for 15 years, began taking SUP lessons.
"This is great for the core muscles and great for balance. As we get older, it's important to stay as fit as we can. I think anybody can pick up a paddle, get on a board and go," said L'Hommedieu, 59.
Tom Pieza, of New Fairfield, has taken at least three SUP lessons. With a group of friends, plans to SUP from New Fairfield to Sherman -- a distance of three or four miles.
"This is very relaxing. You don't realize you are working out. When you're on the water it's so quiet and you completely forget about everything else," said Pieza, 65, a contractor.
"I want people to feel confidence in this sport right from the beginning," Hart said. "Most people see a paddleboard and say, `Oh, I have the worst balance,' but with some lessons most people are surprised with how well they do.
"It's so nice to be able to appreciate the scenery that surrounds Candlewood Lake. By being able to teach SUP, I have brought a piece of San Diego with me."