I’ve stood before.
I’ve stood in water, grass, sand, black bear poo, you name it. I’ve stood on asphalt, boards, planks and the deck of a boat rolling in the open ocean. So standing on a highly buoyant board in flat calm water would be pretty easy, right?
At the recent Outdoor Writers Association of California Conference in Morro Bay I had the chance to try out my paddle boarding legs at Central Coast Standup Paddling.
(Some call paddle boarding, Stand Up Paddling, or “SUP” if you’re hip.)
As per usual, it was a chilly morning when I was introduced to a paddle board. Not so cold I lost feeling in my extremities, but brisk enough to get a little nasal drip. Fog shut out the sun that had burned my neck the previous afternoon and I had no wet suit. There was no room for a learning curve. I couldn’t suck. Paddle boards are more than wide enough to accommodate a relaxed, natural stance, and the surface provides plenty of traction, but a lot can go wrong. Strokes of the paddle must be smooth. Feet must be shuffled, not lifted. Getting down into a defensive stance with knees bent and feet spread actually provides less balance, so dryness continues only by staying upright and relaxed. However my tendons and ligaments cemented my legs and lower back into a rigid stance that cut off the circulation to my heels. I had to consciously remind myself to relax my toes (stand, don’t grip) to keep my feet from cramping. I did a lot of talking at first, trying to reverse-jinx myself with comments about falling in and becoming hypothermic.
After a few turns, I relaxed. I was with two pros and one other novice, and the four of us headed down the shore toward the hotel, weaving in an out of sailboats moored off shore. Once I forgot to be worried about falling, I relaxed. Feeling returned to my heels, and we continued to glide past rays, seals and sea lions.
I thought I was moving at a pretty good clip until I saw that it was the coming tide that was shuttling me further into the bay. After about a half hour, we turned and headed back to the dock which took almost twice as long.
I was dry and happy. Falling in would have made a better story, but sometimes I prefer the boring story than the good one.