Boating Adventures | "Paddleboarding: A Different Kind of Vessel" | Article and Photos by Vicki Totten

While my face is fuzzy, the surrounding beauty is not.
Until recently, I was pretty sure I had tried every type of vessel made for enjoying time on the water. We currently have two sailboats and three kayaks and have had fishing boats in the past. But it turns out there was a type of vessel I had not yet tried and it was one that I didn't even realize was actually categorized as a vessel. The vessel I am referring to is a Stand Up Paddleboard.

My first reaction to seeing people paddle boarding was, "Why in the world would anyone want to spend time standing up while paddling?" If you have ever spent any time near Lady Bird Lake in Austin, it is hard to miss this newest sports craze. On weekends, the lake is totally covered with people standing up on these long boards that resemble surf boards, with a single paddle in their hands, making their way up and down the lake.

My friend and SUP teacher Megan.
My husband Stan and another friend being taught by Megan. 

So until recently, I had not gone beyond observing, and dismissing the fast growing sport from afar.  But I finally took the plunge - both literally and figuratively by allowing a friend to talk me into going Stand Up Paddleboarding, or SUPing as it is commonly referred to, with her. 

Stopping to have a snack and visit along the way.
Balancing on a long board while paddling toward your destination standing up might not sound like much of a workout, but now that I have done it, I can assure you it is. According to some sources it is an all body workout that is particularly good for strengthening your core muscles, including mid back, shoulders, arms, and abs. All I know is that both times I have done it, the next day my entire body ached.

As someone who enjoys sailing and kayaking and has done some sculling, I really didn't expect to take to this new sport. It seemed like it would be boring to just stand up and paddle. What you don't realize until you try it, is how much of a workout it is just to stay balanced and out of the water. According to my SUPing teacher and friend Megan, most people do take a dunk their first time or two. I managed to avoid doing so the first time, but not the second one. It's not unlike sailing in a small boat or kayaking - it's important to know where the limits are by experiencing that first mishap. Fortunately, it was still warm the day I took my dunk.

Bill demonstrating that it is helpful to get on your knees or be sitting when coming in to dock.

The other thing I discovered about Stand Up Paddleboarding was the vantage point you have for enjoying nature. You are standing on a board just above the water line, dipping your paddle in the water and silently gliding along while being surrounded by the sights, smells and sounds of nature all around you. While it is fun to go with friends because you can visit while paddling side by side, I could also imagine it being a great way to meditate while on the water.

Stan at his first lesson.
Looking like a natural!

And in case you are wondering if these boards can really be considered to be vessels, it turns out the U.S. Coast Guard categorizes them this way. While I don't think I'll be selling my sailboat or kayaks any time soon and replacing them with paddle boards, I am happy to have discovered a new type of vessel to use on the water and will definitely do it again. Maybe at some point I will even get the nerve up to try it in the Aransas Bay area. Baby steps.

Vicki and husband, ceramic artist Stan Irvin, are both retired professors who have discovered the joys of Rockport and living part-time on their 33' sailboat, while exploring new sailing destinations and adventures.

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