The Unexpected Switch: My Journey from Kayak to Stand Up Paddle Boarding
As a longtime kayak enthusiast, I never thought I'd switch to stand up paddle boarding (SUP). It was a spontaneous decision that has since transformed my aquatic adventures and my perspective on water sports. The journey hasn't been straightforward, but it's an exciting one that's given me a unique outlook on both sports.
First Encounter with Paddle Boards
My first encounter with paddle boards came during a beach vacation. I noticed a group of people standing on their boards, effortlessly gliding across the flat water of a harbor. What was more intriguing was the diverse group. There were advanced paddlers performing SUP surfing outside of the harbor, catching waves with grace, and beginner paddlers enjoying flatwater cruising. This versatility was my first hook.
My First SUP Experience
Borrowing a friend's inflatable paddle board, I waded into the shallow water, placed the board in, and clambered on, my knees slightly bent for balance. Unlike sitting in a kayak, standing up gave me a full body workout and a higher vantage point, making it a fun way to explore the ocean.
Why I Made the Switch to SUP Boards
Versatility of the Paddle Board
SUP boards are highly versatile. You can use them for flat water cruising on inland waterways, SUP yoga for a serene outdoor workout, and even SUP surfing in surf zones. This was an attractive option for me, given that kayaking mostly limited me to paddling in a straight line.
A Full Body Workout
Stand up paddle boarding provides a full body workout, engaging your core, legs, and upper body muscles simultaneously. As a fitness enthusiast, this appealed to me as it combined my love for the water with a fun, effective workout.
Space to Carry Gear
Most boards, especially touring SUPs with displacement hulls, offer ample storage space for gear. Whether it's a sun protection kit, a personal floatation device, or a snack, you have room to carry gear - an aspect I found lacking in my kayak experience.
Mastering the Art of SUP
Learning to Balance
Learning to balance on a SUP board can be challenging but fun. I started on calm lakes with minimal waves, my feet planted hip-width apart, my knees slightly bent, and my eyes on the horizon.
Picking the Right Paddle
Picking the right paddle is crucial. I learned the hard way that a heavy paddle can quickly tire you out. A SUP paddle, unlike a kayak paddle, has just one blade. You dip the blade into the water and pull it towards you, propelling yourself forward. Picking a lightweight paddle made of carbon fiber gave me more power and less fatigue.
Safety is key in any sport. I ensured that I always wore a personal flotation device while out on the water and learned to be mindful of other boaters, surfers, and swimmers.
The Allure of SUP
Connection with the Outdoors
SUP allows a more intimate connection with the environment. Standing on the SUP board gives a different perspective - it's just you, the board, and the open water. You can enjoy the sights, sounds, and feel of the water beneath you.
Community and Events
The SUP community is vibrant and welcoming. The International Surfing Association hosts various SUP events like racing and SUP surfing, offering a chance to meet other SUP enthusiasts and challenge my skills.
SUP as a Mindful Practice
Beyond the physical benefits, stand up paddle boarding has proven to be a great mindfulness practice. The balance it requires keeps you present, while the rhythm of your paddle strokes can meditate you. Whether it's an early morning paddle when the lake is a mirror, or a SUP yoga session amidst nature, the tranquility and peace I've found while SUP boarding are unmatched.
Exploring the Various Paddle Board Types and Finding My Favorite
As I continued exploring SUP, I found there are different boards for different activities and skill levels. From racing boards that cut through the water for speed, to stable, wider all-around boards suitable for beginners, yoga, or just a relaxed day of flatwater cruising. I found inflatable paddle boards to be an excellent choice for their portability and storage benefits, but nothing beats the performance and feel of solid SUP boards when the conditions are right. Personalizing my SUP gear and finding the right board for my needs added another layer of enjoyment to the sport.
My SUP Adventure Continues
I still have my kayak, and I always will. But since I've switched to stand up paddle boarding, I've discovered a new passion and a new community. SUP has brought a sense of adventure, a novel way to exercise, and a different perspective of exploring the water. As my SUP journey continues, I'm excited to explore more options available in the market, improve my paddling skills, and meet other paddlers in this wonderful community.
Whether you're a kayak enthusiast like I was or just someone curious about different water sports, I hope my journey inspires you to give SUP a try. It's a fun, rewarding, and versatile sport that offers something for everyone.