My aunt and uncle have all the best toys. They wind surf, kneeboard, wake board, water ski, canoe, kayak and anything else you can think of involving water.
So when I first started to see people stand-up paddle boarding, I knew who I should go to for information, and possibly even a chance to try it out. Since I spent last summer watching and becoming increasingly jealous of the paddle boarders going through my construction site, it’s clear it’s just taken me a while to get there.
By this past weekend, when I got to try paddle boarding, I’d seen friends post about stand up paddle board yoga at dawn, I’d read posts about people doing it with their dog on board, and I had seen all sorts of people doing it, even on the Toronto shoreline. Lake Ontario may be lovely elsewhere, but on the Toronto shoreline, the ideal water sport is one that keeps you out of the water.
I was pretty excited to get up to their cottage and give it a go. Even more excited when I saw my uncle just coming back from a paddle.
A paddle using a stand up paddle board paddle… and a windsurfing board. Their sturdy crossover board (good for flat and wavy water) was at home, where they live by a lake large enough to get some actual waves for them to use it on.
My uncle assured me that this one was better anyways – less stable means more core workout, and it’s narrower, making it skim through the water more quickly, ideal for the nearly glassy surface of the lake at their cottage.
Seeing my uncle glide effortlessly off into the distance, I figured he was right. And that my aunt was right that maybe this wouldn’t be the time to try bringing Gwynn out with me.
Stand up Paddle Boards differ from windsurfing boards in a few key ways. They have a rubbery foam surface for gripping your feet to the board, wet or dry. They vary in width and length, depending on what kind of conditions you have planned for them, but looking at a good beginners’ type board, I’d say it’s about the same length as a windsurfing board, and considerably wider.
Wider is more stable. It doesn’t glide as easily through the water, but it isn’t as wobbly.
Having helped me in previous attempts at new water sports, my aunt and uncle made sure the life jacket they provided me with had an emergency whistle. They also strongly recommended that I start off kneeling, at least until I was far enough from the dock to avoid knocking myself senseless, should I fall.
Not that I would, they hastened to reassure me. You’ll be fine. It’s only water, anyways. Just don’t go too close to shore. Rocks, you know. I left my sunglasses behind, just in case.
Using a windsurfing board to paddle is definitely harder than I suspect your typical beginners’ board would be. Either type is a great core workout. The windsurfer added a bit of legs, and kept my core tight regardless of if I was paddling or just standing there.
Paddle Boarding was really great. It’s a quiet and relaxed activity, once you get used to the wobble, just you and the sound of water, and a great view of the surrounding land.
It didn’t take long to start to feel like I was really getting into the groove of things, really feeling confident. At which point, of course, a spider crawled up my leg.
Daddy Long Legs aren’t really spiders. In any case, I’m not afraid of spiders. Or Daddy Long Legs. When one is creeping up the inside of my leg while I’m precariously balanced on a floating piece of plastic… I have trouble keeping that knowledge in mind.
Cue swatting frantically at the inside of my knee, paddle held rigidly out in front of me to try to maintain balance. Insect gone (or at least relocated to the surface of the board), balance regained, aaaah, peace, isn’t it a beautiful day.
Next hazard – people driving around in motor boats. Like they own the place or something. Of course, they’re polite about it, keeping to the opposite side of the narrow passage in the lake that I’m currently paddling through, but still!
Seeing a tsunami (at least a foot – no, foot and a half! – high) rapidly approaching me (at a moderate walking pace), I do my best to turn my wobbling vessel into the wave, to avoid being hit side-on.
All in all, I’m feeling pretty good about my amazing paddle-board abilities. I survived all the huge waves sent my way, an attack by predators (daddy long legs are poisonous, you know… even if their jaws are too weak to pierce human skin) and managed to turn back towards the cottage with only a brief moment of panic at nearly hitting the shore head-on. It’s just a really hard to notice obstacle – like a shoal or a reef.
If you’re looking for something new to try out, you should definitely head out and find a paddle board rental. You might even get as good as I did this weekend! I’m practically a professional, you know.