SUP – the struggle is real!
I want to be honest: until now, I've smiled at stand-up paddlers and didn’t take the sport seriously at all. Things like wannabe surfers, bores on the water, or even this are people who want to be in the water without getting wet came to mind.
After I had been looking for activities for my last day in Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz, I was walking through the village and noticed people stand up paddling. Taster courses were offered and only took two hours.
So I thought why not try it for myself? I’d heard so many people rave about stand-up paddling. As with many things, I'm not really among the first to try something when it's brand new. It always takes a long time until something attracts my attention so much that I must try it. It was my last day on the Galapagos Islands and I just had to kill time. (This sounds harsh speaking about these wonderful islands, but I always find it hard to use the last couple of hours before a flight.
A board, a paddle and I
Shortly before 6:00 am I waddle somewhat tired through Puerto Ayora to the agreed meeting point. Fatima, a Swiss lady who I instantly liked, is already waiting for me. We greet each other like old friends and get two boards from the agency she works at.
She tells me about the differences between the two boards. Briefly summarized for the non-experts (like me): one is to inflate and can be transported folded in a backpack and the other is a board without compression possibility. The inflatable one also doesn’t hurt if you slip and fall on it. I wonder how badly bruised will I be later on on the plane?
“That looks like dog shit!”
This were the exact words Fatima used to describe my first try standing on the board. Both arms need to be outstretched and should not be any lower than hip height when paddling. Sounds simple, right?
“Have you tried any other water sports with paddles before?”, she questions me further. I have tried rafting, kayaking, canoeing and dragon boat. She just shakes her head and says that the first three aren’t helpful at all with stand-up paddling (SUP) but the position of the arms is somewhat similar in dragon boating. The only problem is: I can hardly remember being on a dragon boat since it’s been about ten years.
Into high seas – or something like that
Pelicans are watching us from the shore but soon lose interest. They are busy with other things: sleeping and waiting for the fishermen to return with their catch.
Sitting on the board I manoeuvre myself past colourful fishing boats until we are further out on sea. We find a spot between yachts and sailing boats and start practicing. Instead of using the paddle to move forward, I always end up twisting and turning the board. Not very efficient. Fatima is already paddling away like a pro. She makes it looks super easy.
First tries – and very clean sinuses
Fatima shows me how to stand on my board:
- Kneel on the board – looks like you are praying
- Pull your legs forward and place both feed firmly on the board – like you would stand using a squatting toilet
- Raise your arms slowly and stand up – like you would pick something up
- Stand and paddle – looks like standing and paddling xD
What it looks like when I do it:
I can do the praying position, the squatting toilet too, but I try to stand up and splash! Viki over board.
Let’s do this again. Another splash. And another. And again and again.
My sinuses sure are squeaky clean after the tenth time of falling into the water. Ummm and I never last more than ten seconds on the board.
Trying to hold my balance is equally hard as touching my elbow with my tongue. My legs are shaky and unstable, I feel like I am learning how to walk all over again.
I am starting to rethink what I said about stand-up paddling and must admit that it isn’t as easy as it looks. Kudos to all who have mastered it!
I am getting better though. I manage to balance myself on the board and even paddle a few meters. But I am still getting my salty sinus washes. My legs slowly get used to the board and gentle waves and I am starting to become more confident.
When I get it back on the board, I see the outline of a shark in the clear water. But please, do not panic and paint the white shark on the wall. This shark is hardly bigger than a cat and barely a meter long. I can’t say whether it was a white or black tip shark anymore though.
I let Fatima know that the mini-shark is watching us while paddling and she has the same reaction: “Oh isn’t he precious!”. (These sharks do not attack humans, they couldn’t manage more than a nibble on your toes anyway. By the way, sharks are completely misunderstood and are among the most fascinating underwater creatures that exist.)
I PADDLE and make meters
The sun is getting warmer and the unwanted headers into the refreshing water less and less. Time, like me, dissipates in the heat.
Fatima suggests making our way back to the fishing port – who knows how long I will need to get there anyway.
I only fall off the board once and paddle like a pro. Or maybe not.
Lovely, experienced SU paddlers: I was wrong and you are not wannabe surfers or whatever else I thought about the sport before. You have my respect. And aroused my interest.
Even if it looks simple, it is not. And that is the exciting thing about it.
I am unsure when I will have the opportunity to stand up paddle again, but this time definitely wasn’t the last time. Can’t wait!
Visit Fatima in the office of Galapagos Dreams Adventure and book your course! The ocean is a lot calmer and there aren’t as many boats out in the morning. The sun also isn’t as unforgiving.
The mini-course costs USD 65 and takes two hours.