Surfer dude brings a bit of California to Lake Murray

A family paddleboards together at California Republic SUP on Lake Murray. Staff photo by Tonya Rodgers

If you like to have fun in the waters of Lake Murray but might enjoy something different from boating or skiing or rafting, California Republic SUP offers just the thing.

When Steve Fisher moved to the area from California in 2004, he had a strong desire to be an entrepreneur. He was a high school teacher but longed to live a better life – one where he could earn extra income and make a positive change in the lives of people in the community.

Steve Fisher moved from California to Lake Murray in 2004 and now teaches at Dutch Fork High School.

While living in California all of his childhood, Mr. Fisher became a serious surfer, having received his first used surfboard on his 16th birthday. During his mid-20s to mid 30s, he became most focused on his surfing, taking his surfboard out almost daily to enjoy the wild waters.

“I am a soul surfer. I do it for the sense of satisfaction and artistry that it brings me,” he said.

While he thinks of surfing often and still enjoys it when he returns home to California, most of Mr. Fisher’s time is spent as a full-time social studies teacher at Dutch Fork High School in Irmo. He spends his “other” time on Lake Murray, giving people the opportunity to enjoy paddleboarding at California Republic SUP. The SUP stands for “standup paddleboard.”

Paddleboarding became a popular water activity around 2007. Participants use their arms to paddle while lying, kneeling, or standing on a paddleboard, which looks similar to a surfboard. Paddleboard racing is a popular competition sport; there are races held all over the world, with the two largest races held Wilmington, N.C., and Chattanooga, Tenn. each year. 

In 2010, Mr. Fisher began his business in Irmo, operating a paddleboard and skateboard shop. He partnered with another gentleman for a year in 2014 and together they offered kayak and paddleboarding rentals.

At his current location at SouthShore Marina in Leesville since 2017, Mr. Fisher offers his clients a chance to paddleboard along the shores of Lake Murray. Paddleboard purchases and rentals are also available, as well as paddleboarding camps and Ladies Night paddleboarding.

“This summer has been great,” he said. “Up until the middle of May, I was unsure of whether I was going to be able to open up due to COVID-19. But we officially opened on June 1st, and I would say we’ve had about a 20 percent increase in business so far this summer.”

Lake Murray also offers a paddleboard club, of which Steve is a member. The club sponsors one paddleboard race each summer and raises money for the Special Olympics.

Mr. Fisher enjoys seeing his customers try something new and challenging on the lake and loves to see families and friends bask in the serenity of this activity. He is looking toward to the future and would love to be able to organize and offer paddleboard trips around the world at some point.

While his family remains in California, Mr. Fisher – who was nicknamed “Moondoggie” when he was a surf instructor at a summer camp in Malibu in 1982 – feels that Lake Murray, South Carolina, is now his home. However, when he first moved here, he felt he did not quite fit in.

“I have more empathy for immigrants now because I know how it feels to be a newcomer in a strange place.  Then in 2010, when I began my business, I became known as the business guy from California that was bringing some odd thing to South Carolina,” he said. “That’s when I felt like I was becoming part of something bigger and people were going to want to get to know who I was.”

California RepublicSUP is open on Saturday and Sunday during the summer from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and for “ladies night” every Thursday evening from 6-8 p.m. Check them out on Facebook or at their shop at 3072 Highway 378, Leesville.