By Scott Scanlon

Refresh Editor

Jared Callahan took the long way home, and now that he’s back in Western New York he plans to make his mark in his favorite spot – on the water – as he tries to improve the region’s health and make us more attuned to the environment.

Callahan, 28, a Sweet Home High School alum who lives in the city, is the latest entrepreneur at Canalside. His new business, City of Light Fitness, has teamed up with BFLO Harbor Kayak, near Clinton’s Dish, to offer a personal training regimen that includes stand up paddle boarding.

Sessions, which include fitness training and a paddle in Buffalo Harbor, start at $30. Learn more at

Stand up paddle boarding looks like surfing with a long paddle.

The guys who brought it back are in Hawaii, Laird Hamilton and Dave Kalama. They’re two really well-known, big wave surfers. They started using it as a way of training when there were no waves. It kind of started around 2007 so the sport’s really new. The subtropical areas and the coastal regions, that’s where it’s kind of taken off more. You have organized clubs, organized races. Places like here, it’s slowly starting to catch on.

How big are the boards?

About 30 inches wide. Most boards are about 11 feet long, but most race boards are up to 14 feet.

Is it hard?

You just literally scootch yourself up in the back and pop up in the middle of the board. I’ll prone paddle, too, just like a surfboard.

Everyone’s concern first off is, ‘Do I need a wetsuit? Am I going to fall in?’ You don’t need a wetsuit and yeah, you could fall in. I’m not saying you’re not going to. When you get out there and kneel on the board, you’ll kneel all day and never tip. It’s really similar to a kayak. When you first get in that kayak, it’s wobbling around. As soon as you kind of sit in there and relax – that’s the biggest thing, breathe, relax – you’re good.

What are you looking for in terms of customers?

It’s all abilities, all levels. I’m also in touch with Disabled Sports USA. … There’s a local chapter in Buffalo called WNY Adaptive Water Sports that caters to physically disabled people. What I’m looking at are disabled veterans and getting them out on the water. … People with autism in particular, there’s been a lot of success.

Another fitness group that has taken it on is yoga. They make yoga-specific boards that are soft topped and they’ll anchor them down so they’re not moving around. You can imagine with that slightly unstable surface and doing your yoga poses. It’s crazy what some of these people can do.

You have a degree in marine biology and have done ocean research off Wilmington, N.C., and in Dutch Harbor, Alaska. What brought you back home?

I realized I want nothing to do with research. I love being out on the water, but doing all the lab work wasn’t my thing. So I moved back to Buffalo and went to ECC to get my human anatomy and human physiology classes, and then I went to UB and started the exercise science program.

Now you’re working closely with Jason Schwinger, owner of BFLO Harbor Kayak and Silo City Rocks.

There’s a lot of opportunity right now, so it’s fun. Partnering with Jason, you can’t pick a more ideal situation, with him starting Silo City and the rock climbing facility [in June] and then being involved with BFLO Harbor Kayak, it’s just perfect. Ideally, I’d like to get a little club together and start a little race team. We’d like to have races.

You’ve decided to take a break from school, work for John Opfer at Proformance Sports Training at the Northtown Center and start this new business. It sounds like you’re almost a free agent.

Basically, just about anyone in personal fitness, that’s how you work. You’re a private contractor. The goal is to continue working at Proformance but then also to have City of Light Fitness stand on its own. With City of Light Fitness, the emphasis is getting outdoors and especially getting out on the water, so stand up paddle boarding, I want to be a large part of that. We’ll see where it grows from here.

You ended up graduating from college when the recession hit.

So many of my friends went to school for teaching and you think there would be jobs. I had a few friends move to North Carolina because there are a lot of teaching opportunities out there.

I think it’s almost more back to my grandparents’ generation where I think you need to be a little more creative. You’ve got to take a risk.

It’s hard to beat your location.

I love being out on the water. Buffalo, even though everyone in the suburbs for the most part forgets it, we are a waterfront city, so I thought, ‘There’s gotta be a way I can get out here.’


On the Web: Learn more about the larger vision Callahan has for the waterfront at the new Refresh Buffalo blog at