Standup paddle boarding is the latest new thing, and I'm pretty sure it's not just pictures of Mark Sisson looking incredibly jacked at 60 years of age paddling the Malibu beaches that has triggered this latest sport. I'm also pretty sure that Mark Sisson isn't that ripped from SUP'ing alone. One of our Cairns friends has a really nice light SUP and kindly allowed us to take it out for a paddle on the weekend. The calm warm waters of tropical north Queensland are a pretty friendly place to try a new sport. After an initial wobbly minute, SUPing is really easy. Get on, paddle, that's about it.
Three of us met up at Palm Cove and took three different craft south along the beach to Kewarra Beach, my sea kayak, a rental sit on top kayak, and the SUP. We all paddled all three craft for varying periods of time.
Doug heading south in dorky looking stinger suit
I really don't like sit on top kayaks, unless they are well designed surf skis paddled in surf. You are awash in water the whole trip and they are wretchedly uncomfortable to paddle. You can't pack them up for a week, or even a weekend away, and typically they handle like bathtubs. After only an hour or so on the rental beastie, my back was screaming. I wiggled forward, I stretched back, I tried paddling with my legs hanging off each side, I even tried recumbent paddling laying flat on my back. Any mental toughness I thought I had was pretty much destroyed by a session on that sit on top. I don't, however much it may seem that way, want to give a totally negative review of this rental kayak because it was actually fairly light and responsive, but the seating arrangement needs significant work.
After an hour or so paddling the demon sit on top I was begging for a turn on the SUP. Standing upright with a straight back was therapeutic and I found standing up to paddle offered a much better view than the low ocean view I get from my sea kayak. The problem I encountered with the SUP was steering. If you paddle on the right, eventually – and sometimes sooner rather than later – you'll end up heading way too far left, so you switch and paddle on the left, and, sooner or later, you end up heading too far right, so you switch to the right… and on it goes. I reached deep back into my mental prehistory when I had once paddled a Canadian canoe and tried various forms of J strokes all of which seemed to slow me down more than they steered me in the right direction. I even tried leaning the SUP up on one edge – which an SUP does not do well – like I do with my kayak, but that also did not seem to turn the craft in the right direction. Mostly steering is actually pretty easy, but if you get a head wind the right to left tendency seems to be exacerbated. The one section I paddled heading into the wind, I went right, left, right, left, like a demented Jane Fonda aerobics tape on fast forward.
Three craft ready for paddling
Near the end of our paddling morning, I finally got back into my own sea kayak and it was like sinking into a comfortable bed that, like three bears, fits you just right.