It’s a beautiful day: don’t miss it!
Since being widowed almost 10 years ago, I have tried to live my life according to this great motto – much to the horror of my three children at times! Some of my escapades have left them shuddering with embarrassment.
Well, I thought it was better than watching TV through the bottom of an empty wine glass, which was growing to be a habit.
Eventually the kids got used to my crazy antics – and I think now they are secretly quite proud of ‘The Whacky Widow’ who is their mum.
Turning up at a family picnic at Freshwater Bay, with my new board strapped onto the roof of my Toyota Corrolla, I called out: “OK. Everyone’s got to try this!”
They rolled their eyes and groaned. Two hours later, it was they who were calling out, “Mum, come back – you promised us a turn!”
Stand Up Paddle Boarding (otherwise known as SUP) is the latest of my “must try” pursuits. This latest venture follows on from living in Bali; climbing a volcano; learning to surf; learning to ride a motorbike; boxing lessons; Jacobs Ladder; Bikram Yoga; RSVP; abseiling, and sea kayaking. All of these are the ‘Adventures of a Middle Aged Widow’.
Even when I finally started dating a guy after nearly 10 years as a single, instead of sipping wine and reading a book on our weekends at his beautiful property in Margaret River, I persuaded him to teach me to use a log splitter, a chainsaw and how to drive a tractor! The first two, he did (tentatively), but I couldn’t budge him regarding the tractor lessons… maybe because he saw how erratic I was with the chainsaw?
I saw my first SUP board, while living in Bali in 2007 – and of course had to try it. That was on calm water at Serangan (Turtle Island) early one morning. One of the major surf schools there had bought one, and I just happened to be in the right place at the right time.
Which is how, back home in Perth five years later, on a quiet afternoon just before Christmas – I made a coffee and logged onto Gumtree. Two hours and $700 later I was tying a second hand SUP Board onto the roof of my car!
Now I am easily recognised on the water, as that crazy female trying to surf waves on a racing board designed for flat water. Oh dear…
Stand Up Paddle Boarding has been a wonderful discovery for me. I love the ocean and this gives me a reason to go there and have some fun whenever conditions are right. I have a sport that I can do alone and yet it’s made me part of a loose-knit group which is friendly and supportive.
I paddle just south of Cottesloe Groyne. This is a beautiful part of the ocean where snorkellers, crayfish divers, surfers and paddlers all enjoy the water together. On a calm day, SUP allows me to simply glide along, watching the fish and stingrays in that other world beneath us. The extra height due to standing, gives me extra visibility.
On a day when there are small waves, I can pluck up some courage and try my newfound surfing skills. When I catch a wave, others cheer – I think they are amazed! Firstly, I am older than most of them; secondly, my board looks extremely cumbersome compared to most.
Out of the water on the beach, we stand and chat in little groups, discussing the merits and prices of different board shapes, sizes etc. We swap boards with each other for a ‘play’, most of us being relative beginners at that part of the coast. At the carpark, we help each other feeding boards into bags or lifting them onto roof-racks. Most of us don’t know each other’s names – but we do know how long we have been in the sport and what board we will buy next!
Some of my friends think I’m slightly mad – but hey, they’re right. They ask me about the threat of sharks: “Aren’t you scared?” Like most people who swim, snorkel or surf, I have a healthy respect of sharks and an awareness that they are there. I am scared of sharks, yes. I can never swim or snorkel for very long without getting a bit jittery, but I won’t stop. One of the beauties of the SUP Board is that I feel I can stay out on the water safely for hours: the ability to see so clearly in and around the water from the standing position makes me feel quite at ease.
Stand Up Paddle Boarding is said to be the fastest growing water sport in the world. As well as being a great way to just enjoy being on the water, it is also a marvellous way to build strength and fitness.
Says Nate Burgoyne, editor of Stand Up Paddle Surfing Magazine: “SUPS is a superior core workout on both flat water and amongst the waves. It is an ideal sport for cross-training as it brings together legs, back, feet, arms, neck and stomach muscles in a graceful display of core strength and balance”.
I am not sure that the word ‘graceful’ would describe me as a paddler just yet – but give me time!
If you are interested in getting into SUP as a fun way to keep fit and to get out on the ocean, below are some links to a couple of local suppliers to get you started.
Stand Up Paddle Perth. Based on West Coast Hwy at Scarborough. Speak to Darren or Todd. http://standuppaddleperth.com.au/
Stand Up Surf Shop. Near the Dingo Flour Mill on Stirling Hwy, North Fremantle. http://standupsurfshop.com.au/demo
SOS Surf Co. Adelaide St, Fremantle. Friendly and helpful. http://www.sossurf.com.au/SOS/Home.html
www.seabreeze.com.au Originally started in 1997 by a windsurfer, this fantastic website is now used by surfers, fisherfolk, sailors, windsurfers and kiteboarders. The website for conversations, information, buying, selling and of course wave and weather forecasts.