Stand Up Paddleboarding - Day 12
Watergate Bay is one of my special places. It was my childhood beach and I take my 3 kids there now. Memories are stored over the expanse of that beach; from hitting my hockey ball from one end to the other, as the 11-year-old me dreamed of making it to the Olympics one day, to having a birthday party there where Mum fell over a rock, but managed not to drop the cake. I didn’t make it to the Olympics, but I did keep my relationship with cake going.
So, I turned up on a beautiful day to try Stand Up Paddle with The Extreme Academy, feeling quite at home in my surroundings. I should have remembered that my treasured memories were land based and not so much in the sea. I managed to prise myself into my wetsuit and stepped out ready to go: I looked like a fat Baywatch extra. Jan and Tony, a couple who had tried it the previous evening for half an hour, joined me and I felt a bit more encouraged about it all.
Carl took us down to the beach to give us a substantive run through of the equipment, technique and safety instructions. The board, at about 10ft long, was a big old beast and the sea looked fairly flat and calm - I felt confident that even I could stand up. Once we finished our land-based practises, I was feeling cocky. I didn’t fall off and managed to mount and dismount with aplomb but, saying that, we were still on the sand.
We lifted the boards down to the waterfront and I forgot the whole previous half hour of instructions. As I flailed about, Carl repeated all the salient points and launched me into the wind, where I maintained a kneeling stance. I flapped my paddle around and gained no ground whatsoever. The calm, flat sea I saw from the beach, was actually turning out to be 6ft and choppy in my mind. Jan and Tony were already off standing up and paddling about.
I could no longer put it off. I had to attempt to stand up. Slowly, slowly was the key to this. After several aborted efforts, I rose to my feet, only to emit my pterodactyl scream as my legs wobbled and turned to jelly. The approaching ripple of a wave sent me flying off. Carl checked me and then urged me to remount and give it another go, which I did, resulting in the same outcome. I resorted to my knee-paddling and when I found that tiring, I sat on my bum and paddled about. This was great. Maybe I could lie down on it and use it as a lilo?
Then I tried to distract Carl with questions, but he got wise to it and suggested he launch me into a wave to get the feeling of catching one. He reassured me I didn’t need to stand up “unless I felt like it.” He pulled me into position, awaiting a wave I could be propelled into. My paddle was poised, head forward, and then whoosh, I got caught in the wave. I stayed with it momentarily but I could feel my balance going. I tried desperately to right myself but could only stem the tide for a split second, before I was once more gobbled up by the white monster. As I lay washed up, like a beached whale, I looked up and I kid you not, I saw a dog...the dog was surfing. A surfing dog was better than me!
I was determined not to be outdone by a surfing Spaniel. Carl was determined that I was going to get the full experience. We resumed the previous position. This time, Carl would swim behind me, keeping the board upright. We caught the smallest wave possible to feasibly catch and coupled with Carl’s dogged babysitting of me and my dogged determination not to be outdone by a dog, I caught the elusive wave and I surfed it, on my knees, all the way to the shallows. Victory and exhilaration! I might actually be an adrenaline junkie...
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