It sounded so fun and I’m game for (almost) anything sports-wise, so stand-up paddle boarding was calling me for a try.
Besides, I’ve lived five miles from the ocean—make that Laguna Beach—for 15 years. I don’t think I’ve EVER gone in the local salty brine above my knees. And I love to swim! So, I thought, no time like the present…
I work out five days a week at the gym: strength classes, yoga, hip-hop dance, and am always looking for new ways to get fit and have fun. And yes, the shark-sighting news of earlier this summer season has stayed with me the past few months. Even yesterday, down the coast at San Clemente, a shark sighting was reported by surfing “regulars.”
This morning, I went out in Laguna with a superb yoga trainer from my gym, to experience my first stand-up paddle-board outing.
Benefits of stand-up paddle boarding
I’d dreamed about it off and on last night, and with some trepidation—not sure why. Maybe ESP?
I snow ski, water ski, run, ride horses, and have a “pretty good” sense of balance even at this mature age. I don’t surf well, but I do kayak pretty well. And I thought, “If all those other people can do this, why can’t I?” Besides, it has cardio, balance and flexibility benefits, plus it sure works that core—and my core always needs a little extra “love.” Doesn’t yours?
We met at 9 a.m. and I put on my personal flotation device—a life vest in a belt. I picked up my board, thought it was pretty lightweight, and with determination, attached the “leash.”‘ Then I plowed through two very strong incoming waves that really wanted to suck me out into that ocean blue. Beyond those forceful breakers—and there weren’t many—lay a glassy-smooth surface that beckoned the intrepid paddle-boarder: me.
(Oh, and I didn’t see a shark fin anywhere!)
The ‘stand-up’ of stand-up paddle boarding
About 250 feet “out,” I pulled myself on top of the board on to my knees and hung out for a few minutes. When the command came to “stand,” I slowly put each foot down and was quickly aware that I was really shaky. I kept my butt in the air, hands on the board—with paddle in right hand—until I dared stand. I was really nervous, knees quivering and me trying desperately to “find my center.”
I have to admit that I expected to be more balanced and more sturdy. Not to be. The ocean’s surface rose and fell slightly, me adjusting and thinking what it would be like to ride a tsunami!
Suddenly, I pitched too far forward and SPLASH: my indoctrination to falling off a board. Should have done it sooner. Snorting and shaking my head, I grabbed my paddle, and then the handles on top of the board, and pulled myself back on the board, panting. (Good grief. This is not as easy as it look Thanks goodness for my really awesome coach!)
I got my paddling technique down, but took a few more tumbles as I allowed myself to just breathe. That is helpful. My strong legs came in handy as I got my gaze up to eye level and surveyed the spectacular scenery around me. Soon, the hour was up and it was time to really burn some calories and strengthen those upper arms as we paddled back against the current, still parallel to shore.
Now I needed to “go in.” I turned perpendicular to the coastline, got back on my knees, and noticed some larger waves were crashing ahead of where I needed to go. About 100 feet from shore, one lifted me and set me closer. I saw another coming and thought, “Wow, this is really close to the beach.”
Now I know I should have been in deeper water for stand-up paddle boarding; the water was too shallow and I just didn’t think fast enough. The wave knocked me forward, I did a somersault, and my head hit the bottom hard, as did my neck and shoulders. I swallowed salt water and came up, only to be knocked down again—still just feet from where the water stopped and retreated.
This ocean is pretty powerful, I thought, and it has earned my respect once again.
Paddle in shoulder-height water
I was slightly incoherent as I trudged out of the surf, wiping sand from my eyes, ears, and hair and from every wrinkle of my suit.
Having suffered a few concussions when riding horses, another one was not what I needed. I rested and didn’t use my brain for a few hours, per the specs on Mayo Clinic’s site.
Will I go out again? You bet.
I highly recommend trying this hugely popular sport, maybe on a lake—there you’d just have to contend with the wake of boats. I’m still thinking about this today, but maybe not as clearly as I’d like! Here’s an excellent site to give you all the basics you need to get going with stand-up paddle boarding. Try it and let me know if you like it.