Thursday, July 3, 2014

Up an Ocean Without a Paddle

Standup Paddle Boarding (how it should look)
Photo courtesy: SUP USA
By Chad Smart
@chadsmart & @my123cents on Twitter

Being unemployed allows for new hobbies to be tried. These hobbies help take the mind off the fact I’m unemployed and really need to find a job.  A couple of weeks ago, for the first time, I tried stand up paddle boarding.  For those not familiar with stand up paddle boarding, or SUP for short, it’s essentially standing on a board similar to a surfboard. While there are differences (probably greater than I imagine) for the simplicity of the argument, we’ll say the SUP is akin to a longer throwback surfboard. Once on the water, the rider will start out on the board on their knees before casually standing up and using a lightweight oar to paddle.

Sounds simple right? After seeing several people having no difficulty staying on a board and paddling, and after watching a few “How To” videos on YouTube, I decided to give SUP a try.  Had this been a battle, it would be fair to say, I walked into a gunfight with only a pen. I am really bad with analogies.

Photo courtesy:
The first lesson learned was paddle boards are heavier than they look. I’ve seen surfers carrying their boards under one arm like it was nothing. When I tried to pick up the paddle board, I could barely get my arm under the bottom of the board to lift it. Upon seeing my struggle, Wesley, the liaison from the Surf Shack, pointed out there was a handle in the middle of the board that would make carrying it “easier.”  Once I had the board somewhat firmly in hand it was time to head to the beach. Did I mention the boards were kept in a van on the side of the road and to get to the beach there was a 100-foot walk across a parking lot (which was being repainted resulting in taking a longer detour) before walking down a twenty-foot staircase? Forget actually paddle boarding. Just getting to the beach with the board was enough of a challenge.

Once on the beach, I was pleased to see the ocean was pretty calm.  One of the biggest concerns before going paddle boarding was trying to get the board out past the waves. Thankfully, a calm ocean meant no waves to keep me washed up on the beach.

Photo courtesy:
I walked the board into the ocean until the water was just shy of being waist deep. From there, I pulled myself onto the board, settled onto my knees and started paddling out to the deeper part of the water. If I was going to fall, I wanted to make sure I didn’t go head first into shallow water. I paddled around the ocean a bit to get a feel for how the board felt and to master the use of the oar.

Quickly the realization occurred that the idea of how far I was going by paddling and the reality of how far I was going were two separate distances. A good few minutes of alternating right and left strokes got me not the 20-30 feet I imagined, but rather a paltry 3-4 feet further from the beach.  I should have known it was going to be a long two hours. Two hours being the amount of time for the board rental.

Photo courtesy:
Paddling may have taken longer than expected, eventually though, I made it out to a point in the ocean I thought was the right spot to get off my knees and stand up on the board. The videos I had watched on YouTube made a point to highlight when standing your feet should be side by side instead of one foot in front of the other like how a surfer would stand. I placed my hands on the board to steady myself and slowly start to stand. Very slowly I get to my feet and steady my balance. Noticing my feet to not be even, I try to move my right foot forward about six inches. SPLASH!  Thankfully the ocean wasn’t cold because I was now treading water trying to keep my head above water and getting back to my board.

Once you fall off, you have to get back on the horse, right? Pulling myself out of the water, I get back to my knees on the board. Compose myself. Mentally run though the steps of getting to my feet and paddling. In my mind I see myself paddling to Mexico. Okay, lets do this. Hands down, steady, knees come off the board and with a slight teetering I stand up. Few seconds of uneasiness while finding the sweet spot for perfect balance and then the oar hits the water. One stroke. Two strokes. Three SPLASH!  Unfortunately Mexico was more than three feet away. I couldn’t even manage to get from Malibu to Topanga Canyon road. This is not going as planned.

Clear the water from my eyes and get back on the board. As I sit on the board contemplating another go and trying to figure out what went wrong I look back toward the beach. There I see two kids roughly around ten years olds standing on boards and paddling like they’re on dry ground. My pride had taken enough of a beating for one day. I spend the remainder of the rental time alternating between paddling on my knees and simply sitting on the board soaking up the sun. Somehow I mange to sunburn the top of my left foot and while no other part of my body got even the slightest tan.

Round one of SUP went to the ocean. Now I have a goal to master the paddleboard and show the ocean I can’t be beaten.  Not sure when I’ll get back out into the ocean, but eventually I will be there and I will be standing up. After I achieve this goal maybe I’ll try surfing. Or maybe I won’t. I saw Point Break and am scared of accidentally invading a surfer’s turf and then Anthony Kiedis will try to beat me up.


  1. thanks for sharing us your experience and tips on how to do SUP right. Snowcoast Board Sports

  2. Paddle boards are almost like a surf board that the surfers use to dance along the seas waves. check here