Finding My Balance: My First Stand-Up Paddle Board Experience

We here at Oyster.com don't call ourselves travel experts for nothing -- it's because our staff has traveled the world and tested out thousands of hotels, restaurants, and activities. So today we're bringing you an inside look at exactly how we uncover what we discover; namely, by giving almost everything a shot. Oyster writer Alex Creange gives us her first-hand account of her first-time experience with paddle boarding.

Stand-up paddle boarding is kind of like the kale of water sports -- one day no one’s ever heard of it, the next it’s the leafy green (hrrmm, aquatic activity) de rigueur. Just flip through any magazine these days and you’re bound to see a toned and tanned celebrity paddling through the waters of some exotic locale. Though the origin of stand-up paddle is not completely known, it is thought to most likely have Hawaiian or Polynesian roots. Which is why, on my recent trip to Oahu, I felt compelled to give it a try. I just had to see what this new craze was all about! Plus, looking like a celeb while commandeering the waters of the Pacific didn’t sound half bad either.

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Perhaps it was the guiding hand of ancient Polynesian surf gods that called me to SUP, or maybe it was just my thirteen year old sister begging me to try it with her, but on our second day at Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa (pictured above), we made our way over to the beach rental hut. After a $60 charge ($30 per person, per hour, no cash accepted) and a life vest fitting, we headed towards the shore. “Have you done this before?” the beach attendant asked. We shook our heads. He quickly gave us instructions: kneel on the board, paddle out, find your balance, and stand. I watched my sister go first. Within minutes she was gliding across the water.

I prepared to follow suit. I shimmied onto the board and knelt as best I could. Wrangling my paddle, I attempted to stand. But my legs wobbled, and my stance, which was supposed to be upright, looked more like a quarterback’s under center. The board rocked beneath me, and within seconds I flopped into the water. As I bobbed up and down in my life vest, I looked around for my sister to see if the same fate had befallen her. Nope. There she was, standing atop her board as if it was solid ground, pointing and laughing in my direction.

Too proud to give up, I threw myself back on the board and tried again. I wholeheartedly attempted to "find my balance" as the instructor had, well, instructed, but apparently my balance is lost and would rather not be found. Even when I was able to stand upright, my legs trembled and I cringed at every passing wave, hoping and praying that I would just stay afloat. For anyone familiar with Aulani’s lake-like cove, “waves” might seem like a laughable term. But while not Waikiki, there are some formidable breakers, which make balancing an act more easily said than done. After an hour’s time, I was more than happy to paddle to shore. My sister on the other hand, was already making plans for the next day’s SUP session.

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Twenty-four hours later, my body ached in ways I never thought possible. My arms, my legs, my shoulders...MY CORE! Who knew that an hour’s worth of wobbling, flopping, and “finding my balance” could provide such a workout. Unbeknownst to me at the time, SUP has long been a popular form of exercise for surfers on days when the surf is lackluster. SUP provides a complete (I'm talking complete) workout, and exercises almost every muscle in the body. And for those looking to add a wellness component to their SUP experience, hotels like the Four Seasons Maui (pictured above) offer SUP yoga classes. Yup, when you’re balance gets really good, you can actually downward dog atop your paddle board as it floats along in the ocean. Let’s just say it’ll be a while before I sign up for that class.

Though my first stand up paddle experience was far less glamorous than I’d originally hoped, I can finally see why everyone likes it so much. It’s challenging, it’s adventurous, and (I’ll admit it), it’s fun. And just like kale, it’s good for you too.

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