Saturday, July 16, 2011

What? SUP!

They weren't here when I left the Central Coast in 2008, at least not in large numbers. Sure, you might have seen one once in a while, drifting eerily upright along the rippling skin of the water. But now, it seems like they are everywhere...meandering amidst the field of moored boats in front of the Morro Bay Yacht Club...scooting between the wet-suited surfers in the waves that curl around The Rock...cruising the Back Bay in pairs and pods, oblivious to the leopard sharks that swarm and breed just under the surface.

It's a new decade now, and a new water sport has come into it's own. Apparently, Stand Up Paddleboarding is here to stay.

I had never done it and neither had K. Of course we had to try it! So when D and E visited on 4th of July weekend, the four of us headed over to Central Coast Stand Up Paddling, which is easy to find on the Embarcadero, right across the street from Golden China.

It looks impossible. Can you imagine standing up on a board that is just floating in the water? Neither could I. But they say, "If you can stand up, you can do it."

(I took issue with this. There are plenty of people who have missing or otherwise impaired arms. I suggested a better saying might be, "If you can sweep the floor, you can stand-up paddle." But this got us off on a tangent about who sweeps the floor at home and why can't the other person seem to do it? Not a great advertising tactic. So, I'll let them keep their motto.)

They start you out on your knees. It's surprisingly easy to balance.

They give you a funny long paddle that looks like a duck's foot at the bottom. You have to hold it backwards. At least, the way you think it ought to be held is exactly opposite of how it works.

They watch you paddle around on your knees for a minute, and once the look of confused anxiety leaves your face, they encourage you to stand up. Suddenly, you're paddle boarding!

Before you know it, you're standing perfectly upright, and perfectly dry, in the middle of the bay, with nothing but a couple of inches of foam between you and all that cold, salty water. It's an amazing feeling.

It is so easy, and the folks at the rental place are so agreeable, that soon you'll be out paddling with your best friend right there on the board in front of you... if your best friend has a life jacket of her own, and is well trained to "Sit" and "Stay."

Be careful or you will soon fall victim to delusions of grandeur. It's easy to feel like some kind of fabled saint or miracle machine. The sensation is really similar to what it must be like to walk on water.

It's not like kayaking, where you're sitting down in the boat, working your arms and shoulders to carry your otherwise inert body through the water. It's not like surfing, where you depend on the ocean's own crashing velocity to propel you into a balanced position. It's really not like anything other than just taking a stroll around your neighborhood park.

Except, now your "neighborhood" is the collection of pleasure crafts and live-a-boards that populate our local waterways.

And your "park" is the quiet, gently rising water that hugs the lonely dunes while the tide pours in from the ocean.

It's a lovely mix of the mundane and the fabulous, the exotic and the everyday. I hope you get a chance to give it a try.

If you're in the area, you don't even have to commit to the hourly rental fee. CCSUP hosts free demos every second Saturday from 9 to noon.

And if you don't live in the area, you know what I'm going to say.

This is just one more reason you should come and visit us!

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