Monday, May 7, 2012

I marked something off my "bucket list" yesterday - I took my first stand-up paddle boarding lesson. It is something that I've been mildly interested in since I first saw it featured by Groupon last year -- but I happened to meet the owner of Paddle CORE Fitness in a yoga class last month and figured it was time to find out what this new sport was all about.

We met at Mountain Island Lake at 3:30pm on a gorgeous Carolinas' Sunday afternoon and I brought along a couple of friends: my daughter, Brenna, who is eight years old and my friend Laurie, who would probably prefer I not publish her age here (LOL.) Our instructor was Ramsay Mead who has been a yoga instructor and surfing coach for nearly two decades now - but who has owned Paddle CORE Fitness for about three years.

He unloaded the boards for us and adjusted the paddles to the optimum length for us. We all donned an old-skool looking "fanny pack" which served as a PFD (personal flotation device) in case we needed it / but allowed us a more comfortable range of motion than the traditional orange vests would've allowed. They each featured a plastic yellow deployment handle on them (but since the boards themselves are so bouyant and since participants are traditionally never very far from their paddle board, the fanny-pack PFDs had never been deployed so they were packed very compactly - and that was a bonus!)

We wore lots of sunscreen, our bathing suits with shorts and tank tops over them, and visors or baseball hats to reduce glare (as none of us wanted to lose our sunglasses in the water - and we didn't have those floating croakie straps for them!) Ramsay had us lay on the boards on our stomachs (surfer style) and he launched us to deeper water from the coast with a strong push. The standing up part was the trickiest / and yet all of us had instant success and felt somewhat comfortable and balanced within just 5 or 10 minutes.

The paddle (surprisingly) didn't have a fin on both ends like a kayaker's paddle, but was shaped more like a canoe paddle and we took turns switching which hand was on top to paddle on each side. The fin was angled about 10 degrees at the bottom and it was placed in the water at the angle opposite what we expected (with the bend pointing forwards instead of behind like you might imagine it should be to get more of a grip on the water.)

Paddling is where the skill of an instructor really comes in handy. Ramsay shared that he's watched novices paddle all day on a lake using all arm, elbow and shoulder strength. . . but if done properly, the paddling motion is truly a full-body exercise and you'll enjoy more speed and motion from less effort (plus a sleeker torso if you put in enough hours!)

The price was $45 a person and we were out on the water about 90 minutes. We each took a few "swims" and getting back up on the board was infinitely easier than we'd expected. The boards are very stable and buoyant so it's tough to tip them.

My favorite part was just being out on the lake and having the freedom to explore narrow shady coves and channels. We listened to birds, spotted a turtle, and waved to lots of hikers making their way along the trails. We also spotted several fishermen who'd staked out a nice spot that trails probably didn't easily access. The experience was definitely addictive.

From here we could do more lessons, rent paddle boards, enter distance races, get our families and friends involved, go on day trips to other lakes, paddle salt water or white water, buy a board and any number of combinations. I can't wait to get my dog Lady out t the lake and see if she will stay on board long enough to allow me to take her on a tour of other parts of the lake. The boards also provide plenty of space to stow items on top (like a mask, snorkel and fins / or a picnic lunch if you pack it to be waterproof in case of spills.)

Ultimately - knowing how I hate to exercise (but love to play) - I would like to turn this into a regular fitness routine that involves me spending more quality time with my family enjoying the great outdoors.

Read all about owner/instructor Ramsay Mead here, and check out prices for lessons here.


Ramsay Mead

The History of Stand-up Paddling (borrowed from

Stand-up Paddle Surfing (SUP), or in the Hawaiian language Hoe he’e nalu, has long been a part of the Hawaiian culture and its popularity is now spreading around the world. The sport, an ancient form of surfing, first came about as a way for surf instructors to manage their large groups of learner surfers, as standing gave them a better viewpoint of the water, increasing their visibility and ability to see incoming swells. In the 1960s, the Beach Boys of Waikiki would stand on their long boards and paddle out with outrigger paddles to take pictures of tourists learning to surf.
In the early 2000′s Hawaiian surfers such as Dave Kalama, Brian Keaulana, Rick Thomas, Archie Kalepa and Laird Hamilton started SUP as an alternative way to train while the surf was down. The greatest thing about SUP is that you don’t have to be Hawaiian, a pro-surfer, or an experienced waterman to enjoy or even master the sport. It has all the thrill of surfing and kayaking with the safety and stability of training wheels. Anyone can achieve the excitement these big-wave surfers experience and become a part of the “surfing world” without big swells or even an ocean! SUP can be enjoyed on any body of water — anytime!

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