A Tale of Shaky Legs

A Tale of Shaky Legs

            “I don’t like it,” Ron says, smiling. I’m holding the board as close to the dock as I can, trying to steady it while he steps on. “I don’t like it,” he says again as I push it gently away, and hand him the paddle. (He’s still smiling, mind you). His legs are shaking, each knee taking a turn almost buckling as he tries to steady himself, feet against board, board against water.

            “Wiggle around,” I tell him. “Push against the water. It’s steadier than you think. You won’t tip.” He complies and does an awkward body dance, arms flailing, legs shuddering, but he doesn’t fall. “I still don’t like it!” …He’s yelling now, he has to be, because already he is 100 feet away, paddling slowly, steadily, across the lake.

            Before I know it, he’s gone. Having gained confidence in a mere 5 minutes, Ron made his away across the lake, around the island. I can make him out just barely, paddling 1, 2, 3, on each side, then switching. From this far away, it looks graceful, paddle boarding. The white of the board slicing through the dark water, the rhythm of the bending knees, paddle diving into water, pulling back.

            When he makes his way back to the dock he exclaims “I saw fish! And turtles! And birds!” He’s talking now about how he wants to go fishing today, how he could see himself doing this every morning.

            That’s how it is with paddle boarding. For those who haven’t yet tried the sport, I can assure you it looks more difficult than it is. When I first tried, I assumed it had to carry the difficulty of other water sports: surfing, wakeboarding. I assumed that a board so skinny couldn’t possibly support me easily. But call it magic, (or science) it does. There are many types of boards that you can progress with once you’re comfortable, but beginner boards, often made of foam and a durable plastic material, are about as stable as a large floating raft. After a few minutes of awkward learning; working out how to paddle and where to place your feet (just behind the middle of the board!), I can assure you, you will fall in love.

            For your first day on the paddleboard, I suggest going early in the morning, or later in the evening, when the water is glassy and reflective. Wear a lifejacket, (just in case) and polarized sunglasses if you have them. It changes the visibility immensely! And seeing the lazy bending of seaweed, the flitting schools of fish, turtles paddling about, is half the joy.

            When Ron comes back from his second trip around the lake, he is confident, already without the wobble of a beginner. “I just have one question,” he says. “What happens if I fall in?”
Thankfully there’s a simple answer. It lies in this other activity that’s popular in our area. People drive out of the city to do it. They flock to rivers and lakes and ponds for it. They build pools and fill them with water for it. I call it, affectionately, going for a swim!

            Any of the lakes in River Country are a good place to get started. Borrow a stand-up paddleboard from a friend to try it out, or if you’re looking to bite the bullet and buy, 37 North carries a great supply of beginner to intermediate boards. Happy summer!

 

by Carmen Faulkner

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About The Author

Carmen Faulkner

Carmen Faulkner is an avid travel enthusiast who grew up in Newaygo County. When she isn’t on the road, she splits her time between her home in Newaygo and the mountains of British Columbia. Her love for all things outdoors is paralleled only to her appreciation of food, coffee, and craft beer. You can find her in our community kayaking down the Muskegon River, hiking the North Country Trail, or enjoying the small businesses of downtown Newaygo.