STAND UP PADDLE BOARDING FOR ELEPHANTS

ElephantSUP2It’s been almost six weeks since we’ve arrived to our new duty station. There are a few boxes left to unpack and we’re starting to settle in to our new surroundings. If you live close to any large body of water, chances are pretty good that you’ve seen stand up paddle boards or “SUP’s” as the locals call them. The name pretty much says it all, it’s a board that people stand on and paddle around the water. Sounds fairly easy right? Yeah, not so much.

Being the genius that I am, I had this idea in my head that I would hop on one of these boards, paddle around the Seal Beach area and within a few weeks be signed to the US Olympic Paddle Boarding team and take home the gold. I was excited! I knew this was something I could easily do. So I searched the internet and found a woman who is a personal trainer and SUP aficionado. After a few e-mail exchanges we set the date and time to meet for my first paddle board lesson.

The night before my lesson I re-read her e-mail and gathered up all the items I would need such as sunscreen, water, hat etc. She went on to say I should wear something comfortable, tight fitting and easy to maneuver in if I fall into the water. I couldn’t help but chuckle at the suggestion that I, the soon to be paddle board champion of the world could possibly fall into the water. I stood and looked at my closet for a moment before pulling out my Capri pants, a halter top and a sweatshirt.

That morning I met her on the beach where I’m sure her first thought was, “What in the world is she wearing?” I looked like a rejected Denver Bronco player with bright orange Capri pants, a multicolored halter top and a bright blue sweatshirt. I waddled through the sand to where the boards were and introduced myself.

She showed me the necessary steps of how to place your paddle on the board, how to stand up and how to paddle. (Yes, there is a process to paddling.) After about 20 minutes I started to get anxious. This was all well and good, but in order to take home the gold, I needed to get on the water — PRONTO! Finally she said, “Now we will grab our boards and head to the water.” I picked up my board and could feel my heart beat with excitement.

Once the board was properly placed in the water she told me to use the technique we had practiced to get on top of the board. I placed my paddle and my hands in the appropriate area and slowly started to lift myself up onto the board. I could see one side of the board start to lift up off the water. My arms started to shake and the paddle began to slip from my hands. All of the “technique” in the world couldn’t have helped me now.

My instructor, or as I like to call her my SUP Sensei, went to one side of the board and held it down so I could lift myself up. Once I got up on my hands and knees she told me to go ahead and, “with one quick move hoist myself up.” I started to laugh. More importantly, she started to laugh. The shaking from my arms and laughing made the SUP move back and forth uncontrollably. The board stopped moving and I found myself frozen in place on my hands and knees.

After about five minutes I looked up to see my instructor standing next to me smiling. I started to laugh again and with that the board started to shake. I didn’t want to fall off into the water so I slowly moved my legs back down and slid off the board. I felt like an elephant on a paddle board…I stood there defeated knowing that I have a long way to go before I got up on that board and paddled my way to victory.

To be continued…

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