SUP Newbie

My first, and only, stand up paddle-board (SUP) experience was a few (okay, 8!) years ago while visiting friends. They were members of a premier sports & fitness club that had a quarry on the property which they used for a few different water sports. Our friends had recently taken up SUP’ing as part of their regular gym-going routine, and we (my spouse and I) were excited to try something new. It didn’t hurt that it was October and the water temperature was in the high 70s, whereas it was already turning cold at my house.

Blue and white paddle-board at the edge of a lake, with trees and mountains in the background (photo by Will Smith on Unsplash)

I am not the most coordinated person. That is to say I have a serious lack of coordination and occasionally just tilt over while walking in a way that confuses most other people. I’m also in a larger body and despite my efforts to pick things up and put them down, I have never had a lot of upper body strength. So I felt like my best chance for getting on and staying on the board was to step onto it right off the dock, and then don’t get off of it until I was done. I did not kneel. I did not sit down. I stood. I paddled. I jumped off and enjoyed a refreshing swim, and then pushed my board back to the dock while I remained in the water. I don’t know if I could have pulled myself back onto the board because I never tried.

Despite feeling uncoordinated and generally suspicious of new things, I really enjoyed the adventure. We tried to go again on our trip but other activities in the new-to-me city won out, and we ran out of time. Fast forward four years, and I now live near a small body of water. Our community calls it a pond, but it would be described as a small lake in most other places. Within a month of moving in we had purchased two kayaks and began enjoying the water. As soon as it was warm enough to swim in the pond, I pulled on my wetsuit and hopped right in. In the summer I will often grab a pool noodle and a beverage and go “float” near the dock, relaxing in the water and chatting with neighbors as they boat or paddle by. In those early days I searched for a SUP that met our needs and our budget. The hard boards were often heavy and carried a lower maximum weight than what we preferred. The inflatables had a wide range of ratings and user experiences, and most of them were a bit above our price range. I still kept an eye out on community “for sale” pages and summer sales flyers, but it wasn’t a priority.

Until this past weekend. The universe worked to remind me of how much I wanted to SUP on our little pond by sending a couple of paddle-boarders by as we were enjoying breakfast. Later that morning I was on a page for a community group I am in and saw that someone had posted a link to their new inflatable SUP, which happened to be on sale for a very reasonable price. I knew it had to be mine, but let it percolate for a few more hours before pushing the “buy” button.

I doubt I’ll ever be able to do a headstand, but maybe a little Warrior II someday. Image: woman doing a headstand on a paddle board (photo by Tower Paddle Boards on Unsplash)

And now, friends, my new SUP is on the way to me, reported to arrive before next weekend when I can try it out and get familiar with our combined quirks. The kit comes with everything but a life jacket, which I already have. Although I can step onto the board right off the dock, I know I am going to need to get proficient at pulling myself back onto the board, and at getting to a standing position from sitting or kneeling. I’m sure there will be a host of other things I need to figure out, including sun protection for longer paddles. I’m excited to try something new and open to doing it poorly for a while while I work on these new skills. Please share any SUP tips you have in the comments!

Amy Smith is a professor of Media & Communication and a communication consultant who lives north of Boston. Her research interests include gender communication and community building. Amy spends her movement time riding the basement bicycle to nowhere, walking her two dogs, and waiting for it to get warm enough for outdoor swimming in New England.