Sunday, June 12, 2011

It's contagious and I'm infected with S.U.P.

Knock them all you want (Lord knows I have). Call them what you will. Stand up paddle boards are here to stay. In the past decade these boards have gained popularity and seem to be spreading across the nation and world like a virus. From Hawaii to California to Florida to a random lake in Kansas the concept is absolutely brilliant. Simply put, you have the billion dollar plus marketing machine that is the modern day world of the surfing industry (although it seems only a small percentage of the people involved in that industry "actually surf) and NOW there's a way for EVERYONE to surf... well... kind of surf. The allure of "surfing" that this mass marketing machine has created across the globe is NOT something everyone can do. First off, you've got to have a beach geographically in reach. Then that beach has to have ridable waves and favorable conditions to learn. And finally, you have to have a little bit of athletic ability in conditioning, balance, strength and stubbornness. Learning to surf waves is not easy no matter who you are and a lot of people get frustrated and give up!
Now take a large stable board with a massive amount of floatation and give someone the ability to have a higher amount of environmental control -- the paddle -- and calm flat water for beginners and just about anyone can enjoy it on their first time. Just check out this picture! BRILLIANT! It looks like a surfboard. You stand on it. It must be surfing, right? I don't think so, but... well, that's the marketing brilliance of it.
Stand up paddle boarders take a lot of shit from surfers. This is probably in part because of a few SUP guys getting into situations where they don't belong. There are a lot of SUPs at my local break (one of the most crowded and territorial in Florida). I talk to the regular ones. They're nice guys and mean nobody harm. The trouble with SUPs is when they allow a beginner to get into a situation where nature would not allow them on a traditional surfboard. Then chaos soon follows and an out-of-control 11 or 12-foot board, paddle and out of shape human in the line up is bad for everyone. I will say in defense of SUPs. Anyone that knocks stand up paddle boards and says they don't belong in the surf needs to watch Laird Hamilton rip the hell of a few waves in this video here. Perhaps watching that very video influenced me.
After careful consideration and a lot of thought I decided to finally give it a try. My idea was simple; get two stand up paddle boards and Jenny and I can use them to explore the river while getting another type of cardio/core workout other than running and most importantly, it's on the water. Jenny was sold on the idea instantly when I pointed out to her some of the endurance SUP races held around the country. Something to train for!
We asked around, did research and eventually decided to buy a couple of SUP ATX boards. They are by far not the best boards ever made, however, for our budgets they get the job done. We got identical boards with different paint jobs. They are epoxy and they included the deck pad, fin and carbon fiber paddle in the discounted price. As popular as these boards are I know that I can always sell them on Craigslist without losing much money and buy different ones if needed.

As I clicked the "order now" button on the website I felt as if I was betraying the brotherhood of surfers. I was excited and weirded out at the same time.

Jenny was 100-percent EXCITED when she clicked the order button!

We had them shipped to my office. You should have seen the look on my co-worker's faces! The box was so big it hardly fit in my truck.

Later that night we opened them up in my living room. Jenny is ready to go! Each board is 11' feet long and 4.5" thick and 28-pounds light.

We picked a calm, wind-protected canal for our first attempt. Neither of us had ever tried it. The plan I devised was to push off on our knees and paddle around for a bit on our knees to acclimate and then stand up. I was shocked to see Jenny hop up to her feet only after a few seconds on her knees. It was even easier than I thought!

In only a few weeks we've been exploring all sorts of waterways. I own a touring kayak and I can confidently say I'm going to sell it and never kayak again. You can see SO much more on SUPs. So far I've paddled within a few feet of redfish, flounder, manatees, dolphin and even a bonnet-head shark. It's also been a great learning tool for Jenny and her surfing. She has practiced her paddle and pop-up on the SUP in a controlled environment and is now taking it to the waves on her normal surfboard. It's helping and I'm stoked!

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