he good news about falling when paddle boarding, is that it doesn’t hurt as much as falling when snowboarding,” Jay, our stand up paddle board instructor, said, reassuringly.
As I timidly tried to get on my paddle board for the first time, I made a “note to self” memo to remember that insight, if I ever actually tried to snowboard. Today though, I was finally trying something that I had wanted to try for years: stand up paddle boarding (or SUP as it’s known shorthand). My sis-in-law, Beth, had enthusiastically agreed to try it out with me at the Manhattan Kayak Company‘s inlet on the Hudson River.
The basic concept of SUP is that you stand on a board (that looks like a wider surfboard) while using a paddle (similar to a kayak paddle) to steer you.
Obviously this is not from our session in NYC, but this guy is a perfect example of what SUP looks like!
Jay started off by teaching the class the paddling basics on the ground: how to steer, turn etc. I awkwardly pretended to be gliding through the water with the taller-than-me paddle while trying not to smack any classmates with it. Eventually the time came to pull out the actual boards. This was when my heart started to beat a little faster. I would have to somehow balance on that. On the HUDSON RIVER. At this point, I just came to terms with the fact that I was going to fall into the river. Several times. But hey, it wasn’t going to hurt like snowboarding does…apparently.
Underside of the boards. That’s my little baby board in the front ;)
Jay hopped off the pier onto what would be Beth’s board. He started off on his knees and then showed us how to eventually stand up and keep our balance. He glided around the water effortlessly towards the opposite pier where the Intrepid is permanently parked. Oh yea, I forgot to mention that our little practice inlet is right next to one of the coolest museums in the city. Jay paddled back over to our pier, hopped off the board and instructed Beth how to get onto the board.
Beth got onto the board easily and started to paddle around from her knees. Before I knew it, she was several feet out in the water waving cautiously back at me. Finally, my turn came to get in. Finding my balance on my knees with my butt still down, was easier than I thought it would be. When I gained confidence, I then raised my hips to a kneeling position and started working on the paddling techniques. Suddenly, my nervousness began to subside and I was having fun.
Next up, the time came where we were instructed how to stand up. Gulp. It took me a few times to get my feet aligned on the board properly. I started engaging muscles I forgot I had. It was like doing yoga, except on a board, on the Hudson River…while holding a paddle. I was super wobbly. I wasn’t sure if my legs were shaking from the adrenaline rush or from every muscle working super hard or a combination of both.
I literally had to get my “sea legs”. For the first five minutes, I felt like I was ready to fall off at any given second. I remembered to go back to my knees every time the “oh shit!” feeling came. Surprisingly, I stayed on the board. Eventually, I started getting really good at finding my balance quickly to stand up.
Another ten minutes passed, and I suddenly, I found myself right under the Intrepid staring up at the wondrous craft. I realized some tourists were staring back at me from up above the decks, then I remembered I was on a freaking(!) paddle board and…wobble…back to my knees.
The Intrepid. We got to paddle right up to this beast!
The coolest thing about paddle boarding, for me, is when I began to glide across the water. It was almost like walking on water in a way (yea, Jesus would have totally been into SUP). Before long, I was having conversations with Beth while paddling (with the occasional wobbling still of course).
I was sad when we were called back to the pier at the end of the session. To be honest though, I was kind of relieved at the same time, because man o man were my leg muscles starting to get sore! I was exhausted (doing this while having a nasty summer cold probably didn’t help either).
After getting off the board with some awkwardness, I found Beth. “Holy crap!” I realized, “We didn’t fall in!” We both started discussing immediately when we could do this again. We were hooked.
We didn’t fall! (Beth right, Intrepid in the back)
Moral of my story: get yourself out of your comfort zone. You might surprise yourself and not fall like I did. Even if you do fall, at least it doesn’t hurt as much as snowboarding (unless of course you are actually snowboarding).