Monday, September 16, 2013

Three steps toward paddle boards

We've been debating getting a paddleboard.  It seems like we have less time to paddle and the same old places are starting to feel dull.  Could a paddleboard be the answer?
So far we've taken three steps into paddle boarding:
Step One:  Try an alternative board.
Greenland style paddle boarding - he is headed in to grab a life jacket
A couple of years ago we, we searched Uncle Henry's, a local want ads magazine, and bought an inexpensive used wind surfer.  The sail joint was broken, but we didn't plan to sail it, instead we took it to lakes to play on.  A wind surfer is narrower than a paddle board, with less curve up toward bow.   The sides slope down, unlike some paddleboards which have raised edges. It has a small fin and a keel.  It worked pretty well, with the keel in place it rarely flipped, but was hard to turn.  We used it with the keel a few times, but almost never use the keel anymore. 

As a new toy  it does pretty well. People used it in pairs, and even trios.  It's really sized for those under 200 pounds, but if you don't mind getting wet, you can put much more weight on it.
 Folks of all ages use it. They  stand up, kneel, or sit with one leg to each side.  We try to have folks who use it wear life jackets, but because it's also used as a float toy, in close to shore that doesn't always happen.  Like in the first picture, he's still in the swim area, its not over his head, but since he now has a paddle, we've called him in to get a life jacket.
Demonstrating the PVC paddle
Along with our windsurfer paddleboard, we have an eight foot section of PVC pipe that people love to use as a paddle. Don't ask me why; I guess just because it's different and it doesn't seem like it should work.
But the windsurfer never feels stable enough to go long distances.  Whether that was the board's size, shape, or our skill level is hard to tell.  

Step Two: renting a big wide paddle board.
Wind surfer left, paddle board right
Last summer we rented a paddleboard for a day.   It was okay, much more stable.  I could imagine using it for paddle yoga. When I paddled it, I could relax and enjoy more, taking in the longer view, rather than spending all my time balancing.
Again windsurfer is left
But we still resisted...  But all those slick boards, the health benefits of standing and exercising....articles like Baffinpaddler's about the benefits of a paddleboard...

So we signed up for Step Three: a paddleboard lesson.  The morning of the lesson it was pouring and not surprisingly, the guide called to see if we wanted to cancel.  We'd heard better weather was coming, and decided to risk going ahead.
What a game guide we had!  Tina Fish, who works for Belfast Paddlesports; ready for adventure on the water. 
Tina assessing our sanity
    Plainly the better weather wasn't here yet.
It's the ideal day for paddling!
 We told her we were looking for tips on dealing with wind and fast moving water.  We wound up trying four models, in a wind that was really too stiff for beginner paddleboarding.  What we learned:
Paddle boarding in the rain isn't that bad; though I wore a wetsuit and dryjacket... 
 Most boards are not sized for Mark, it took a couple tries to get him a board.
 Paddle boarding up wind is tough.  I couldn't get the basic-style board (the green one) to make progress upwind when I was standing, and wound up switching boards with Tina.  Then, upwind progress was slow.  Eventually, we both followed Tina's lead, and knelt.   And both of us thought how much easier this would be in a kayak.  But to be fair, it would be even easier on a jet ski.  It isn't always about what's easiest.
Notice the raised edges, making it easier to lean and turn.
 Paddle boarding on the ocean is entertaining, and when the sun came out it was even nicer.  Paddleboarding did use different muscles, we were pretty tired after an hour and a half.

So, no brilliant insights, but a fun experience.  We'll see if we give in to temptation....


  1. Thanks for sharing your experience with paddleboards. I've thought about getting one also. I think I'd only like it when both the air and the water temps. were warm. So, that wouldn't leave much of the year for paddlboarding, but I would love to work a different set of muscles and see things from a new perspective. Keep us posted on your further experiences/decision!

    1. Ang, I think that will be our goal too, quiet water on warm days. But it was fun to try a windy day, just to see what it was like.

  2. Glad to hear you are giving paddleboarding a try. I like it mostly as a summer sport when it's warm and the water is calm and flat. Now that the cooler and windier fall weather is here, I'm back safe and snug in my sea kayaks.

    1. You make it look like a lot of fun, maybe even for warm fall afternoons....