Why SUP? An emotive piece on Paddle boarding

Morning troops.  I was asked to write a sub 2000 words piece, for an Australian publication about SUP.  As a part-time everything in life, my poetry and writing is no different.  My short story here on SUP may resonate. If not, all good, just keep SUPin 酪

‘Why SUP?

I am PaddleboardPedro and every second I am awake, and asleep, all I have on my mind is nature, the sea and my paddleboard!

Stand-Up Paddleboarding (SUP), this sleeping behemoth of a sport, a pastime a set of addictive and repetitive experiences, side-lined for too long by the younger and faster champion that carves and shreds through the water with speed and beautiful lines of white water as its frame cuts through the briny.

Paddleboarding, our veteran of the seas who has been cutting about on waves and water, journeying between islands and inlets, for four score years and more when an old surfer with creaking salty and calcified bones – but still with the sea coursing through his blood – refused to remain shore side in his retirement, and took his old surf board and a paddle and journeyed out to find some final waves.  With the birth, then hibernation and now renaissance of SUP, this veteran has stayed the course and is winning the final battle of the saving of the most souls from the mundane, the rat-race, the pressure as waterways, and lakes, and lochs and seas and canals and rivers are filled with bright colours, and fins, and the laughter of friends and families.  This sleeping gentle giant finally awoken thanks to innovation, the beauty of engineering and blue sky thinking.

Blue sky thinking, as a phrase, is so apt as this is all you can do when you are connected to nature with just 250 litres of oxygen keeping you connected to the water.  This engineered supportive lung providing us with the elixir in life that we all crave, unconsciously or with meaning and purpose, it happens.  It grips your bones and infiltrates our DNA, and never lets go.  For those of us with a mission for connection, and as an Australian singer songwriter wrote, “…World I want to leave you better, I want my life to matter…I’m afraid that I have no purpose here…” what SUP does for us, who paddle in order to stave off the pangs, the shakes, the twitches, the contorted body shapes and misaligned energy that comes when the paddle is out of hand for more than a few days, is that it throws us straight into Attenborough’s back garden.  It gives us purpose, lets us positively influence all we touch.  No engines to prime, no tanks to fill with foul fluid and with no negative energy, we appear in car parks, on road sides in all manner of vehicles.  These eclectic rainbow figures a myriad of genders, shapes, sizes and ages all with a different journey that has led them to these places. These special places where nature has opened her doors and windows to us with slipways and causeways to lead us to what we have dreamed and thought about for days before the paddle.

Paddlers-to-be look on as we bring to life these ruck-sacked revivers of our positive energy.  Our now unfurled friends become the bellows to our smouldering embers, glowing orange from the last epic paddle.  As we pump precious air into our board, the first sensation of adrenaline and endorphins are felt.  They tingle the toes and finger tips as our chariots feel the pressure.  This same pressure we too feel, when the wind is blowing hard at our windows and we are stuck in our offices, our homes; and factories; and shops; and building sites in the hope that we can explode out of our restraints.  As our board reaches its maximum, where no more air is needed, we take this opportunity to exhale with glee, with passion, with patience of a moment that we have planned out for days.  A feeling that many have been yearning for, for years.  Weather and wind apps checked, double checked, triple checked, tide times known…all mapped out to 6 hours beyond the paddle.  Our south-westerlies known from our north-easterlies; our on-shores and off-shores assessed; our up-winds head down driving moments planned and our down-wind back of the board surfing moments relished…we can’t just drive, inflate and go!  To make every paddle the most perfect paddle, takes thought and care and respect.

We are in the hands of nature and all of the power that this beautiful and wild planet can muster, against the insignificance of our fragile frame.  Our brains now in overdrive, with contents for dry-bags; and flasks; and towlines; and leashes, and safety bits and pieces as we splash away most chances of the paddle not being the best.  In truth, the moment we launch and our feet feel the deck, heels down as we unfurl from crouching tiger to proud water-warrior as we scan the horizon, hands in position, knees slightly bent the feeling of that first stroke…well it feels like the first hand held, the first lips kissed, the first car owned and the first tragic loss.  Loss as we now know that our time on the water sadly is timed, the hourglass turned at launch as the weather, like life, won’t stay the same.  I have played and tried and failed and excelled in over 30 sports, nothing is out of my personal reach, my only limit is me…and yet only two sports have ever left me feeling truly loved, truly connected with all that is important in life, the energy of this planet, the plants and all living wild creatures that allow me to share their space with them.  I am but a grateful migrant in their land, and I never forget this with ever step I take, and paddle stroke I make.  Boots on a mountain ridge with burning shoulders and a hot back as I carry my temporary home to a summit, fills me with the love that I feel when my wife takes my hand on a random walk, or when my grown up children sit on me or hug me from behind – this is one such love.  As many ridges and mountain ranges that I have climbed there are times during those climbs and challenges where a corner of my brain is still filled with something I don’t want in there, my work, an issue, a problem…all unwanted tenants.  However, SUP is now the only time when I am truly free of all external noise.   When I am out at sea, in a loch or on a river, out there where my brain is completely devoid of clutter, all I see are sea currents, dark patches and light patches and cloud patterns and colours and wind in the sky how it changes the clouds and the chop, the currents, the wildlife and the movement of my board.  We can name lists of adventurers in terms of their destinations, Columbus, Raleigh, Scott and Cook but rarely the contents of their journey.  SUP, as with life, is no different – it is all about the journey, and little about the destination.  The corporates compartmentalise and condense us by delusions and deviations about the importance of the destination, with their silent planned poison manifested in the profit that they reap from OUR journey, and one WE rarely enjoy.  

SUP, this cranial enema, is effective every time I launch, every time I launch!  When on a mountain, and caught by nature, and this has happened to me with the most well-planned of expeds, there are always safe options for survival, dig in or dig under, cover up and cover over, stay warm with all that the earth provides, yet with SUP, at sea, there is a sense of absolute vulnerability to the elements that makes you feel alive.  My beautiful sea touring Fatstick paddleboard, Moana, is known by many in these parts.  We have travelled many miles at sea together, with the confidence of Marco Polo, yet just 3 miles out at sea, just beyond my front door, Poseidon saw I was just a little too confident that day, so he reminded me just how irrelevant a mammal I actually am, as he threw me off my board as a squall came out of nowhere.  Humbled, Moana and I returned to land in silence, filled with respect and continued love for the sea.   This respect and love ensures that we plan to the nth degree, with every bit of kit packed, app properly read, live conditions assessed, when you are out there at sea you are so small, so insignificant and so vulnerable and my goodness…the respect we should always have for our surroundings stares you down, as if Poseidon himself is assessing how you behave when in his back yard.  As a collective we embrace all who are on the water, all who have a story respected, all who have a journey once neglected.  We embrace every living being, devoid of judgement or unwanted questions as connection is all that matters to us, and this connection is seen as their paddle strikes the water – to be consumed by nature just for as long as it can last.  Moments to relish and cherish.  We stake claim on our amazing advocates, we are proud to call our own Cal Major to Brendon Prince, the Rubbish Paddlers to Chris Saunders to my fine friend Craig. I apologise for the multitudes not named accomplishing phenomenal feats to raise great awareness, but you see I have a limit of 2000 words for this piece, and I am already at 1789.  Ahhh…1789, The French Revolution…as SUP is ours!

So, you will see some strange sights of you sit and look at a SUPer.  You will see them paddling around, stopping, crouching into the water, packing something away, then back up, paddling, scanning all around them, stopping again, picking something else up, photos to take and adventures to relish.  Sadly, at times they leave the water with cargo nets filled with plastic bottles and plastic bags and straws all scooped out of our precious waters, and under the gaze of the great sea god himself.  With these small signs of respect and gestures made with our love for his playground shown, we are allowed to return again, to enjoy all that we love and hold so dear.  And one day we will return with empty cargo nets and a camera filled with images of clear waters and a clear conscience, with the knowledge that when we could we travelled the seas, the rivers, the canals, the lakes and lochs and righted the wrongs of men.  Our community is small but our hearts are big, but we are growing in numbers this armada of love, this armada of respect, this armada of a community.

I am PaddleboardPedro and every second I am awake, and asleep, all I have on my mind is nature, the sea and my paddleboard!


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