Stand Up Paddleboarding: Punting for Vancouverites
In my quest to become a little more Canadian every day (only partly a joke) I’ve been wanting to spend more time out on the vast expanse of water that surrounds Vancouver. I was initially thinking about kayaking or canoeing, but when a Groupon deal for Stand Up Paddleboarding popped up in my inbox I couldn’t say no. Naturally the deal was for two people, so unfortunately for him my boyfriend couldn’t say no either. Paddleboarding involves standing on a sort-of-surfboard and using a single paddle to get yourself moving. Apparently it was invented by surfers who were looking for a way to pick up speed when approaching waves, though nowadays paddleboarding is generally done on much calmer water. Our deal was with Vancouver Water Adventures on Granville Island, so we picked a sunny day and off we went.
Actually, it wasn’t as quick as that. We picked a sunny day which happened to be quite breezy, so we spent half an hour watching other people paddleboard from dry land to see if they looked cold/wet/wobbly. Once we’d convinced ourselves to go for it (what’s the worst that can happen?) we headed over to the shop to sign ourselves up. Paddleboards are generally rented by the hour, and our coupon was for two hours. After signing a liability waiver and handing over a credit card and ID, we were given a paddle and lifejackets to wear over our swimwear. The instructor took us down to the marina where two boards were tied up and waiting for us alongside the pontoon. Our confidence soared after we were told that these particular boards were not really for beginners as they were fast and very tippy. Awesome. After nervously crawling onto the boards, we stayed safely down on our knees to get out of the marina.
After about 20 minutes it was time to try standing up. I waited until I saw another paddleboarder fall into the water and went for it myself (because then I wouldn’t look so bad if I fell, right?). Luckily I didn’t fall, and neither did the boyfriend, and we gingerly made our way along the seawall and around Kits Point. It was a busy day for water traffic, which unfortunately for us meant we were continuously dealing with wash from motor boats, jet skis and aqua buses. I was surprised to see my long lost sailing knowledge kicking in, and found myself shouting ‘turn into the wash, it’ll stop you rolling’ over my shoulder every five minutes. It took a good hour for me to get into the swing of things, but I found my rhythm and even had the confidence to try a few turns without falling in. The faster I went, the more I realized that paddleboarding is nothing like surfing but a little like punting. I’m not even sure if the word punting exists outside of Canadian Football in Canada, so I’ve included a picture below for any of you wondering how we spend our free time in Cambridge and Oxford.
It turns out I didn’t have to worry about being cold, as I found the combination of balancing and paddling to be quite the workout. I’d been so terrified about falling in, but if the water hadn’t been so, well, dirty and brown, I’d have jumped in myself by the end. The more hot, tired and thirsty I got, the more I was starting to understand that craving men get for a nice cold beer. We called it quits after about an hour and a half and headed back to the shore for a drink. It wasn’t until I tried to step back onto the pontoon that I realized my feet were locked into some kind of intense gripping position, and my knees were actually shaking from maintaining my squatted position. After hobbling back up to the shop I couldn’t quite face the beer, but went for a cider with ice instead. Yum.
The day after my shoulders are killing me, but that’s a good thing. I’m not sure paddleboarding will be a regular feature in my fitness routine, but I recommend it as a fun and unique experience for anyone who likes staring out at the water as much as I do.