Meet Jane Paddler: Holly Swanger, Asheville, NC

Where you were born and where you live now?

I was born in the tiny town of Canton, North Carolina. Now I live in the best city ever, Asheville, North Carolina!

What is your occupation?

I work as a veterinary technician, have a petsitting business, and in the summer I work for a paddle board tour company.

Where do you SUP the most?

We have a river that flows right through town, the French Broad. It offers flat water, whitewater, even a complete camping trail that you can paddle from North Carolina to Tennessee and camp as you paddle.


Do you have a favorite local paddleboard shop?

Southern Raft Supply! They are the folks who got me started with a board and connected me with other people who paddle. Can’t say enough good things!

What paddleboard, surfski or OC do you ride most?

I have an NRS Earl that I have used the most. Whitewater, paddle-in camping, touring, the works!

Do you own any other paddleboards, surfskis or OCs and what kind?

I have my race board, BlkBox Uno. I also have a BIC I use for teaching or minor whitewater.

What paddle do you use?

I have all Werner paddles. The rep is local and I love her!

Have you changed boards/paddles/equipment since you started? If so, why?

I started with the Earl then grew to the BlkBox. But I still use both frequently.

If you could travel to anywhere in the world to paddle, where would you go?

Where wouldn’t I go! There are so many amazing places, both in the country and all over the world. I hope to go to Spain with a friend and help teach SUP yoga. Costa Rica’s been calling my name, as has Big Bend in Texas. All I need is some free time!

Best piece of SUP advice you’ve ever received?

Have fun! I took ACA certification courses and the instructors always say, “don’t forget we are here to enjoy ourselves!”

Weirdest thing that’s happened to you while paddling?

I was attacked by a carp! I was teaching a lesson on a small private lake and a very large carp surfaced beside me and slapped my board. It hovered around, maybe waiting for me to fall in, then disappeared. It was the largest carp I have ever seen, and I grew up fishing!

Favorite SUP nutrition? (During races/ during a long haul)

Chocolate milk. But really, after a long haul or a race, I just want food I didn’t prepare. I want to show up to basecamp with my food, anything really, cooked and ready. And beer. Post paddle IPAs are important, regardless of the type of paddle excursion!

Goals for this next year?

Next year I have hopes of connecting with a few local schools and camps to teach SUP to kids. I am working with another SUP friend to gather what we need and make a curriculum. I want to help introduce kids to the joys of SUP and water. I also hope to improve my skills to be a better paddler personally.

Favorite post-paddle nosh (snack/beer/recovery drink)

I live in Asheville, Beer City. It’s all about the IPAs. If I’m home, I hit a fave local spot for a tasty beverage. When I’m on the coast for either a race or for fun I crave sushi. I love food though, so I won’t pass up any snacks!

Your favorite non-paddle thing to do.

I have two dogs so I enjoy getting them out for hikes. I am surrounded by the Blue Ridge Parkway so plenty of trails. I also crochet and make soap to give as gifts.

What piece of SUP gear do you wish someone would invent?

Hmmmmm. Nothing comes to mind immediately. I feel this area is advancing every day and there are always smarter folks than me coming up with ideas.

What’s your biggest challenge with SUP?

I get irritated with myself when I fail to make a clean run in a rapid or drop behind in a race. I criticize myself too harshly.

What is your proudest moment in a SUP race or event?

Anytime I finish a race with a better time than before I feel pretty happy. I did make a clean run on the Nantahala River once but failed at the waterfall at the end. But I was dry until then and I was thrilled!


Tell us about the best friend(s) you made through paddling.

So. Many. People. Charmaine, who teaches SUP yoga at Dancing Trees yoga. Kyle, owner of Wai Mauna SUP tours that I work for. Tom and Danelle who I work on the tour company with and loooove to paddle with! These just name a few but are some of the greatest people I know.


What was your best SUP travel trip?

Harkers Island a few years ago. So much awesome paddling on the island and all around it. I have one coming up at Christmas in Florida. I bet it will be just as fantastic.