Standup paddleboarding became the rage in the Hawaiian Islands in the 1960’s. The Beach Boys of Waikiki would stand on their long boards and paddle out with outrigger paddles to take pictures of the tourists learning to surf. Some of the surfers got a hold of this and started standup paddling out to the distant outside reef.
In recent years, there has been a resurgence of the sport. An increasing number of paddleboarders can be seen gliding across the water in Tumon Bay.
There is nothing so peaceful as being out on the water, so I was dying to try standup. The opportunity to learn came to me a couple months ago over dinner on a beautiful, breezy evening down south. Longtime paddleboarder, Cathy Fitzgerald, offered to give me a lesson.
The following Tuesday morning, I met Cathy and another student at Gun Beach. She briefed us on the shore before we even got in the water — from mounting to paddling, from turning to falling.
Mount the board on your knees, positioning yourself near the center at the widest part.
While on your knees, use only the lower half of the paddle. To position your hands, hold the paddle parallel to the water. The hand closest to the scoop should be palm down. The hand at the center of the paddle should be palm up.
To begin paddling, stretch forward with your upper body, arms straight and pull back. The scoop of the paddle should be facing forward. Pull with your body, not your arms.
Once you have forward momentum, place your paddle lengthwise at your side. Place your hand in front of you on the board and get to your feet. Place your feet hip-width apart, pick up your paddle and stand up. This should all be done fairly quickly so as not to lose your forward momentum.
Begin to paddle immediately. Bend your knees slightly as you reach forward. Straighten up as you pull the paddle back, keeping it close to the board. One hand should be placed on the top grip of the paddle, the other partway down. Paddle three to five strokes before switching to the other side. You may have to vary the number of strokes on one side if there is wind or waves, or you find one side is stronger than the other. You’ll know this is the case if you cannot keep the board going straight.
To turn, extend your paddle out away from your board for a sweeping stroke and/or back paddle on the other side. A back paddle will make a much sharper turn.
As you balance, keep your weight on your heels so that if you fall you fall back, the board goes forward and you are less likely to hit the board.
After these instructions, Cathy took us each out for a little one-on-one. I spent three hours on the water that day. I was up on my feet within the first hour and before it was all over I felt fairly confident. So much so that I went out that afternoon and purchased an inflatable standup board.
Honestly, I was sold that night at dinner. According to Cathy, paddleboarding “is a full body workout. You get upper body, lower body and core workout all at once…unless you stop, there is not resting time.” It’s the perfect sport for woman since “all the problem spots get a workout.” As with any sport or workout program, though, it is important to ease into it and know your levels.
I was especially motivated when Cathy shared her success. After a year of paddleboarding, thirty minutes to an hour twice a week, she lost an inch everywhere. She said, “People notice. Everything gets tighter—all the spots you hate. It’s nice being on the water. Hours can go by and you don’t even realize that you’ve been exercising.”
There are some precautions to consider. Many places are shallow on Guam. Always check the depth of the water before diving off your board. No one wants to dive into the reef. It’s also a good idea to use a leash to attach the board to your ankle. If you fall and lose your paddle, leave it and get back to your board. Then use your arms to paddle over to it. As a beginner, the wind and waves are your enemy. You’ll want to stick to flat water on a still day until you get the hang of it.
I chose an inflatable paddleboard for several reasons. The two biggest reasons are that it stores easily and I can carry it in a bag on my back. A standup board is rather large—approximately 10-12 feet long, 30 inches wide and 3-5 inches thick. Finding room for and the strength to carry a hard board may be an issue. An inflatable board is also easier to repair — a simple patch will do. The cost is about the same, from $600 to $1,200. An inflatable may come with paddle and pump. A paddle alone can cost $150 to $300. It is important to choose a paddle appropriate for your height.
Boards and equipment can be purchased on Guam at Sup Shack Guam. You can also find used boards on Craigslist.com.
Standup can be costly during startup but once you’ve got it you don’t have to pay anymore. It doesn’t cost to get into the water and the equipment lasts for years if you take care of it. If you want to try paddleboarding without the investment, hotels in Tumon rent boards from the beach.
So, what are you waiting for? Try this full body workout that is both exhilarating and relaxing!