I remember the first time I stood on a paddle board. Five years ago I unstrapped my mom’s board from the roof of my Subaru and carried it across the sand of Goleta Beach. I was visiting home for a week. Most of my friends had moved away , my parents worked during the day and I was left with the task of entertaining myself for the majority of my visit. My 50 year old mother had recently developed a passion for paddling and bought a board. So one afternoon with time to kill I decided to get out of the house and try it out.
In Santa Barbara, California the most accessible body of water is the Pacific Ocean and I though the calm waters of Goleta beach would make a great place to try SUP. I spent my childhood here body-surfing the shore break and browning my skin on the warm sand. On this evening a gentle breeze rustled the palm fronds above, and the sun, low on the horizon invited me out to sea.
Standing next to the crashing surf, I realized I had no idea how to maneuver a paddle board so I went back to my surfer roots and got on my belly to paddle through the crashing waves. Fifteen minutes later, the board, paddle and I successfully made it past the breakers. Getting my footing on the tippy fiberglass board was a challenge, but the reward of paddling out into the setting sun, rocking on the gentle swell made it all worthwhile.
A seal surfaced beside me as I became aware of the kelp forest I was standing above. Minnows swam below me between its giant vines. Somewhere down there small sharks chased bigger fish through the maze of kelp. Phosphorescent plankton began to glow in the wake of my board. I smelled charcoal and Tri-Tip smoke from a barbeque far off on the beach. I heard the hollow thud of footsteps on the pier above me as I followed it a quarter mile out to sea.
It wasn’t the board, the paddle or the balancing act that drew me to stand up paddle boarding. It was new vantage point it provided me. Much like riding a motorcycle or an airplane for the first time, experiencing life from a SUP was a whole new way to see the world. The environment around me and the calm that came over me turned a familiar beach into a new world of wonder. Since that day, SUP has provided me a new amazing way to experience beaches, rivers and lakes across the country. I continue to enjoy experiences I could not duplicate without standing above the water. I am forever thankful for Mom and her fiberglass board, and I never go on a road trip without mine.