It’s true what they say! Even you can paddleboard!
First thing you have to do is find an out of shape instructor. Even a little bit fat is fine. This isn’t easy as paddleboarding burns a lot of calories, but it can be done, and it really takes the edge off having to learn something while wearing a bathing suit.
Next, try to remember paddleboarding is a sport. Noone expects you to be good at it, so let’s get started.
While everyone else in your group is getting their feet situated on their boards, do a few squats on dry land. This is a good way to remind yourself that you’re not that different from other people in that your knees also bend. Now do a few jumping jacks and jog around in a circle, as though you’re a free spirit instead of frightened.
Once you’ve tricked the group into thinking you were warming up, glance at the paddle board using only your peripheral vision. If your instructor is like mine, she will detect your apprehension, bring the board right to you, and put a strap around one of your ankles. Now is a good time to make a few jokes about getting your sea legs. While your instructor is distracted by her own laughter, quickly tighten your ankle strap just to the point of cutting off your circulation. This will prevent your ankle from collapsing inward as so often is the case with ankles that aren’t used that often.
As the other students are pushing off into the water, this is your chance to check the area for sharks, and tell some of your favorite skiing stories. I always like to tell people about the time I was skiing in Taos and accidentally plowed into a group of five year olds while practicing my pizza wedge. Stories like that help keep your instructor close. It is now safe to paddle out.
After paddling for several minutes, first on the left, then on the right, you will notice a stinging sensation in your forearms. It’s because you used a muscle. It’s not dangerous. Keep paddling. Once you feel certain you’re really challenging yourself, it’s perfectly ok for you to ask your instructor, “Why aren’t I moving?”
She will probably say it’s because you need to put your paddle a little deeper in the water. This will make you nervous because you won’t want to lean in any particular direction in fear of toppling over. Grip your toes as hard as you can, and slightly dip your oars in a few more inches, but don’t look at either of your oars. If you do, you will fall in. Instead, look at the other students, far in the distance, and try to envision yourself moving. Tell your instructor that you looked up “Paddleboarding” on Wikipedia and you’re a little disappointed that you’re not, “journeying from one coastal area to another.” She will probably say, “All in good time,” or “It’s better to take it slowly in the beginning.” What she means is, “How do you even live?”
At this point you will notice you’re shivering and your feet are cramping. This horrendous foot pain will continue for the rest of the lesson and long into the night. Most likely some of your tendons have been severed from the pressure of trying to keep your toes still. Again, this is perfectly normal. I shiver and tense up my toes most days. Even if I’m just standing on line in the supermarket. It’s just our bodies’ way of saying, “You should go home.”
If you mention the cramping, and I encourage you to do so as complaining is the only way to get through any kind of sporting activity, your instructor will probably advise you to “Wiggle your toes a little or separate your feet.” You already know this can’t be done. By now you’ve become completely disassociated from your body. It’s not even loosely connected to your brain anymore. It’s stuck on the board like a piece of putty.
It’s important not to look down at your feet. If you do, you will see that your board hasn’t even gotten wet yet. That’s how little has happened. Don’t let this deter you. Try to strike up a conversation with your instructor about anything other than paddleboarding. Turn your head slowly toward her, try to quell the trembling in your voice so she’ll understand you, and say something like, “So where do you go to high school?” or
“Has anyone ever drowned here?”
She will likely remind you that you are only a few yards from shore and wearing a life vest and nose plugs.
At this point you will probably lose your balance and fall over the side of your board. It was bound to happen. The bad news is you’ll never be able to get back on. It’s simply not possible. Tell your instructor the lesson is over, and pat yourself on the back. You did it!