You Keep the Crunches –The Beginning of My Love Affair with SUP

By Tonyia Bowling


I shouldn’t be able to do this. I shouldn’t be able to do this – these are the words running through my brain over and over again.  This is the story of how my love affair with stand up paddle boarding began.

Early in my vacation I observed a paddle boarding group leave a marina and then the guide tow some of the guests back to the outfitter desk for a refund. When we inquired how hard it might be to learn we were told that it required a lot of core strength; I have none of that.
At night we visited websites of different companies that offered stand up paddle boarding. One member of my family pulled up a photo of a lady just lying on her stomach on a board. I was told, “If she can do it, you can do it.” The pressure was on.

We decided to make reservations with a company in Bluffton. During the lesson our instructor told us that the children would not be strong enough to paddle across the channel and that they would wash down the river a little but he assured us that he would go get them. I stare in disbelief as he goes on to say, “Do not try to rescue them yourself or I will have to bring you back, too.” Usually an over-protective soul like me would have taken an immediate exit. Someone would need to stand by to call the Coast Guard, right? After all, I had succeeded in checking out of surf school two days before with the excuse that I didn’t own board shorts or a rash guard and that someone would need to take pictures. Somehow the rest of the family survived surf camp – perhaps a surprise to us all. In the words of Jase Robertson, “It’s lots of fun…if everybody lives.” I considered the embarrassment of riding from the east coast all the way back to Alabama being labeled a wimp for not trying. I considered the sandbar, a short span away, as our instructor explained that if we wanted to cut our trip short we could just go out to the sandbar and then right back to the river bank. I’m thinking, “I can do anything for 15 minutes,” – I decide to push back against my comfort zone and get on the board. The river channel was choppy with lots of boat traffic. The over-protective part of me surfaces again to report that we are very likely going to die. I ignored.

After two rescues and lots of paddling by our instructor, everyone made it safely to the sandbar. We paddled in kneeling or sitting positions. We decided to walk our boards down the sand and enter a creek that was protected by the salt marsh. A curious shark joining the class while we were wading provided just the encouragement we needed to hop back on our boards and give paddling the old college try. We paddled into the creek and the water settled a bit. We were told, “If you are going to try to stand up, this is the time to do it.” (Wouldn’t it be great if there was someone to tell you this when you’re wavering around trying to decide something in life?) One by one, each member of the family put their hands on their board and then carefully rose to a standing position. Tear-streaked rescue faces were brightened by smiles. We’re all paddling! That image, that feeling, became a part of me that day on the May River. There’s not as much room left for the over-protective part anymore. I am not a fitness person but the core workout occurred without my giving it a second thought. Your body naturally seeks to balance on the board – no crunches required. I had no idea that such a peaceful, simple, beautiful experience could come from paddling a board through water. I still wouldn’t know if I hadn’t ventured outside my comfort zone that one time.

If you encounter that moment when you want to stand on the river bank with the Coast Guard on speed dial, let me urge you to get on the board. Remember, if you’re going to try to stand up (insert whatever dragon you have to slay here) this is the time to do it. You might just find yourself saying, “I shouldn’t be able to do this. I shouldn’t be able to do this,” with a big smile.

2 Responses to You Keep the Crunches –The Beginning of My Love Affair with SUP

  1. Nicki Johns says:

    Really enjoyed reading this!

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