“You ever done this before?” Dan asked. “No but I have kayaked”. “Well this is more like canoeing than kayaking” he said. “I’ve done that too so I should be good.”
This was my first experience paddle boarding so I was nervous and curious at the same time. Myself and nine other first timers met a boat ramp in Hobe Sound Florida. As we watched Dan unload the paddle boards we all had the same questions. Would it be hard to balance? How do I get on this thing? How about off? If I fall off, what do I do?
We picked our paddle boards and the adventure began. Thanks to Dan’s great instructions, we found it’s not that difficult. To launch the paddleboard, place it near the dock. Then sit down on the dock and place your feet on the board. You’re basically using the board as a footrest at this point. Gently, climb on and kneel on the board. This wasn’t too difficult, but you’ll be free floating at this point so stay to the center for best stability.
Ok, we all survived that part. Now was the real test, standing up. To stand up, you lean forward and almost do a pushup. I gently stood up and the board began wobbling side to side. After a few side to sides, I settled in to a fragile balance and began to make my way. Paddling helps keep you balanced so moving is good. It is just like canoeing though; you steer yourself based on the side you paddle.
Once I got into a rhythm the wobbling subsided and I could focus on enjoying being on the water. It’s a bit like riding a bike; once you get going and stop thinking about falling it is fun. I saw stingrays, pinfish, and mullet. One advantage of paddle boarding is that you stand up so you have a much better view of the marine life and surrounding areas.
We paddled along and then came our main challenge; crossing the river among the boat traffic. The boats didn’t concern me because it’s a “no wake” zone and they were going very slow. I could just see falling off in the middle of the channel. The water would be dark, deep and even with a life jacket, I’d be scared. Some of the group wiped out here, but fortunately I made it.
We made it to our halfway point which was a small beach on the barrier island. Getting off the board was easier than getting on; just walk off the board into the sand. We walked across the sandy barrier island to the Atlantic Ocean.
As we crested the top, we were met with a post card view. The ocean was sea green and turquoise in color with rolling waves set against a clear blue sky. The water was that perfect temperature to just sit in. During the trip over we did our best to stay out of the water. Here, the water was so inviting we stayed in. A few adventurous souls paddled out into the rolling waves with varying degrees of success.
After enjoying some time in paradise, it was time to make the trip home. The rest was much needed because the return trip was facing into the wind. It wasn’t the strongest wind, but enough that if you weren’t paddling, you were going backwards. Using shorter strokes, I was able to maintain momentum into the wind.
On the way back we saw a large Osprey nest with both parents. They eyed us warily as we went by and we all looked up in awe. You see so much more wildlife when you’re on something that’s quiet.
I mentioned that paddle boarding is like riding a bike and just like riding a bike, you’re most likely to crash in your driveway. I was just across from the dock watching a boat go by when a small wave caught me by surprise and down I went. Fortunately, I caught myself and didn’t end up in the water. Just a reminder from the water gods that I’m not on land yet and to pay attention.
It was time to disembark and Dan warned us about this part. He must’ve seen this story unfold hundreds of times. People start off tentative, gain confidence, then return to the dock and crash. You’re supposed to slowly glide up to the dock and slowly sit down. I slowly pulled up and promptly sat down. My butt went one way and the board the other. I didn’t go in the water, but it was far from graceful.
Another fun day and I survived in spite of myself. If you’ve been wondering about paddle boarding, definitely give it a try. You don’t need any experience, it’s not that difficult and it’s fun to explore on the water.