Thursday, July 27, 2017

Finding balance: A SUP tour through the mangroves

May 1, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

finding balance 1

finding balance 2The first time I stood up on a paddleboard, I felt like an infant taking her first steps. It happened on a recent sun-filled Saturday on the calm water near Bingham Island in West Palm Beach.

Although it’s less than half a mile from the traffic of Southern Boulevard Bridge, the area is densely wooded with mangroves — a sanctuary for birds, manatees, large schools of fish, and a popular spot for kayakers and stand-up paddleboarders.

Raised in San Francisco, I spent more time jogging on the beach than swimming in the frigid Pacific water. Given my lack of experience with watersports, I doubted my ability to SUP. Could I stay calm and balanced? Will I continue to fall? What if I run into an alligator or a shark? 

As with trying anything new, I accepted the uncertainty as part of the challenge.

finding balance 5Registering for a local event on the social networking site Meetup.com seemed like a great way to get involved. The event, which was hosted by Paddleboard Connection, was open to anyone interested in the sport regardless of skill or fitness level. A cost of $40 included a rental paddleboard and an introductory lesson.

finding balance 3Vivian Caylor, the organizer of the activity, stood on the sandy shore and taught a group of 13 newbies standard paddling forms and techniques. A leader of many SUP tours, Caylor’s muscular upper body confirmed her daily regimen of paddleboarding. She’s been doing so for more than a decade since she began in Waikiki, Hawaii while competing as a professional outrigger canoe paddler. Although she’s lived in other scenic states such as Alaska, Arizona, and Colorado, Caylor shares that she’s impressed by Florida’s waters and how ideal they are for stand-up paddling.

Her guidance was gentle and optimistic. “My theory is that if you can stand, you can stand-up paddleboard,” she told the group. It seemed simple enough.

Well-stocked with drinking water, we were ready to launch. The conditions could not have been more perfect — low winds and high tide. The group began at a slow pace, and I paddled alongside newlyweds, young families, and adventurous individuals from throughout Florida.

Some members of the group giggled as others fell headfirst into the water. Then karma paid it forward, and nearly everyone took a splash.

“It’s not a big deal to fall in. It’s a water sport,” Caylor remarked. “It’s part of the learning process. You never get better if you don’t fall.”

A few hours on the rippling water motivated me to continue paddling later into the afternoon.

finding balance 4It had taken me some time to get used to a vertical posture, but the elevated view on my SUP provided a chance to gaze into the clear waters of the Intracoastal Waterway. Biking, running, and driving beside the unique waterway doesn’t compare to being in the center of it! While on the board, I sensed a connection to the mangroves and surrounding wildlife. The winds whispered in my ears, the steady breeze cooled my body, and the warm water splashed against my feet.

I was curious to see if Caylor’s reasons were the same as mine, so I asked why she loved the sport so much. “SUP is an awesome sport for people who love the water,” she responded. “It’s a great overall workout. You gain stronger upper body, core, back, and balance.”

“Balance is such an important thing people don’t think about,” Caylor enthusiastically added. “Any chance to connect with nature, the water, has a calming effect. It’s very important to go out into the wild to tame ourselves to reconnect with nature and deal with the crazy busy lives we lead. It helps us slow down.”

For more information, or to get involved, visit Paddle Board Palm Beach County’s page at www.meetup.com/Paddleboard-Connection-Palm-Beach-County.

By Xahej Bajipura

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