Saturday, November 26, 2016

What's SUP?

I finally got the chance to try a stand-up paddleboard, also known by the acronym SUP. They have become a very hot trend in outdoor recreation. The first time I ever saw a SUP in action was at Ohiopyle State Park in Pennsylvania (not far from Morgantown, WV) about half a dozen years ago. There is a 20 foot waterfall there on the Youghiogheny River where, for one day each summer, they allow kayakers to go over the falls. It is amazing to watch the kayakers paddle over the cliff and then bob up in the pool below. But even more amazing was watching a guy, standing on his paddleboard, go over the falls and come out of the mist still standing on his board. Incredible!
Thanksgiving is not a holiday in Dominica, so the Peace Corps Volunteers here celebrated by gathering at Toucarie Bay on Saturday. We had a great time socializing, and ate an incredible pot luck dinner, which included barbecued turkey wings and pumpkin pie (although not the lobster that the chef let me hold in the picture below). But one of the best things is that the beach bar where our event was held also has stand-up paddleboards and kayaks for rent. I visited there for the first time about two months ago and rented a kayak (see that previous story here). However, I decided that I wanted to try the SUP if I came back.
Thanks to the Internet, I contacted a friend of mine from high school who started SUPping this summer, and she gave me some great tips for a rookie. I got the SUP into the water, and was able to get up on my hands and knees with no problem. I worried a bit about the next step—going from a crouch into a full standing position. Fortunately, I was able to do it on my first try.
Once I was up, I realized how much a person uses their leg muscles to maintain your balance. Even though your legs aren't moving, you are constantly tensing one leg or the other to react to the wind or the waves. Toucarie is on the Caribbean side, so the waves aren't big, but they are a factor. The bigger problem for me was that as you get further away from the shore, the sea breeze would intermittently kick up (and then disappear with no warning), making things extra challenging.
As I worked my way around the bay, I discovered that I was not making much progress when I was paddling into the wind. Not only was it buffeting me, requiring more focus on balance and less on power, but for every stroke forward it would blow me backwards about half a stroke. I worked hard to get back to the beach bar. I was almost back to the beach when I goofed up and fell off backward, ruining my perfect debut.
I am thrilled that I tried the SUP, and that I was able to do it (that had been a big question mark in my mind). However, I decided to trade it in for a kayak, whose lower profile would not be affected as much by the wind. I had a great time exploring the area around Toucarie Bay in the kayak. I'm looking forward to returning there someday to snorkle, which I didn't end up doing because Saturday was a day to converse with my fellow Peace Corps friends. It is rare for us to gather together in a tourist location rather than the office. Trying the SUP and kayaking was fun, but the best part was spending time with friends. It is truly something to be thankful for during this Thanksgiving season.

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