Cape Cod Wahines wind, wave, and kitesurfing

Stand up paddle (SUP) clinic hooks newbie

Damon Crook, SUP convert

Damon with Carrie

A few weeks ago my wife Carrie, (a Cape Cod Wahine team rider), asked if I wanted to try paddle boarding, as there was a class coming up on June 6, organized by the owners of Sailworld in Buzzards Bay.  At first I had my doubts as I usually have the balance skills of a lobotomized chimp that’s been heavily drinking and been spun around a few times.

A week later, I was going through the grocery checkout whilst perusing the usual gossip magazines, and saw pictures of my ex-girlfriends (Kate Hudson, Jennifer Aniston, and Jennifer Garner) all enjoying this growing water sport.  Even my wife’s ex-boyfriends (Matthew McConaughey and Laird Hamilton) were photographed enjoying this waterman sport that has a history dating back to the early 20th century.  For those of you not familiar with the sport it’s basically a form of surfing but you have a board that is longer and wider than a traditional surfboard.  You also use a tall single blade paddle.

Peter Pan of BIC at the SUP clinic 6/6/09

As the wonderful Wahine ladies and the staff at Sailworld were offering a lesson at Monument Beach, I thought I would go along with my wife and see what this paddle boarding is all about. East coast veteran surfer, Peter Pan, from BIC, was also going to be there.  (I’m a big Disney fan so this was a personal bonus for me.)

On that Saturday, 6 June, a good sized group of people showed up at the Beach and there were plenty of different sized boards and paddles to try out. I was a little disappointed to see that Peter had exchanged his green tunic and sword for a cool looking wetsuit, Robocop shades and a big paddle.  I’d like to meet the pirate that would take on this guy. The Starboard rep, Bob Babcock, was also there.

Jim from Sailworld and Peter gave a very nice introduction to the sport and listed a few do’s and don’ts.  Peter’s main rules for paddle boarding are:

  1. Keep your feet centered and close together or YOU WILL FALL IN.
  2. Keep your back straight, and don’t bend over or YOU WILL FALL IN.
  3. Use your legs not your hips, to balance and correct yourself or YOU WILL FALL IN.
  4. Make sure your paddle is tall enough so you’re not bending over (see rule 2. YOU WILL FALL IN)

The class then grabbed a board and paddle and set off along the shore.  Most like me were on their knees at first to get a feel for the board, but within minutes most of these wind surfer / surfers were popping up as quickly as a pack of startled Meerkcats.  I, on the other hand, had quickly forgotten Peter’s main rules and was busy popping up and then off the board.  I had made the mistake of taking one of the shorter, less stable boards and was popping up with my feet too far apart (there goes RULE 1).  So I swapped out for a 10ft 6 long board and started to get the hang of popping up with my feet centered and closer together.  BINGO.

Now how the hell do I stay up?….SPLASH….GULP WATER…..

SUP clinic 6/6/09

I realized my paddle was too short and that I was bending over too much to paddle.  This was soon corrected and I could then last 30 seconds without falling off (RULE 2 obeyed).  At this point another paddler glides over to me and says “I thought there was music playing over here because you’re wiggling your hips like a crazy dancer!”…..Aha!!!  RULE 3 – use your legs not your hips to correct your balance.  That really helped more than anything in helping to stay upright and paddle along at speed.

So, after about an hour of ‘water boarding’ myself I was able to stand up and paddle with some confidence.

“EAT MY WETSUIT, LAIRD HAMILTON!!!!”

At this point most folks were paddling around and switching boards to see what they liked best. The most stable and easy to ride board for me was the Starboard.  This board was approximately 45 ft long and 25 ft wide.  It was like a cross between a barn door and the Queen’s yacht.  It had a crew of four, a mini bar and a pool table- it was so big.  Nice and stable, but steered slower than the Titanic so I would not recommend paddling this board in iceberg laden areas.

Joking aside, this 2.5 hr paddle session was a complete blast.  Certainly is a good workout on the legs and core and made me appreciate a cold beer afterwards (although I wasn’t sure if that was due to all the sea water I’d swallowed during the session).  If someone like me (who to be honest, surfs as well as a one legged man in an ass kicking competition) can get up, and paddle around with some confidence after an hour, then you can too. Try it out. Paddle boarding is pure fun.

SUP clinic 6/6/09

I’d like to thank Jim and Pam of Sailworld, Peter, Bob, and their family and friends for setting up this lesson. It was a wonderful and fun evening.

Cheers!

P.S. I even got high fived afterwards by Wahine, Liz , “You’re a surfer now, Damon!!!” So that’s “Cheers, DUDE” now.