Just Keep Paddling

When I first moved to Key West I was vaguely aware of what seemed to be a popular water sport called paddleboarding. The paddlers looked to me like diehard surfers that couldn’t catch a wave in Key West and instead found an innovative use for their surfboard by adding a paddle. Additionally, I found 99 percent of paddlers seem to be in incredible shape, tan and sport name-brand sport apparel. I was born with very little sports enthusiasm so this new sport was especially intimidating. All my reservations aside, something kept pulling my interest towards it. Overtime I looked at paddle boards in shops, observed paddlers on the ocean and discovered people who were involved with the local businesses that hosted tours and board rentals. My curiosity kept growing.

On the brink of my 28th birthday I decided to try something new and proclaim a new take on life, as I seem to do every year on my birthday. This year my goal was to try paddle boarding. I invited my husband to tag along, as his curiosity was right in tune with mine. I didn’t eat a whole breakfast the morning of our first venture. My nerves were chaotic and my stomach in knots. I’m not sure why I was so fearful. I love the ocean and adore being in it, near it and on it whenever possible.

Our first trip lasted two hours. I sat and kneeled most of the time. I learned that while sitting or kneeling feels more stable, it takes much more effort to paddle efficiently. I sweat like crazy, especially when my husband seemed to be paddling with minimal effort and maintained a 100 foot lead. The view was simply breathtaking, especially in the morning hours when the water was calm. I was happy to be done, but so thankful I tried it. I spent the rest of the day eating horribly unhealthy junk food and laying around the house. I guess I felt like I deserved it.

Shortly after my first paddle I discovered a local water sports company, Lazy Dog, was offering a six-week beginner’s paddle training course. I was apprehensive to try it; did I mention how out of shape I am? With encouragement, I signed up for the class, which I’m now halfway through. Each week is a one hour session and we’ve covered a little more distance each week. With the time limit of one hour, I felt extreme concern that I wouldn’t be able to increase my distance so quickly. Our first paddle was about 1 mile long and last week I paddled 3.5 miles in just about the same amount of time.

For me, paddleboarding is the perfect metaphor for my life; much of it is about balance. If you stand too much to the left or right you will fall off. If you’re not centered on your board, you’re more likely to fall into the water or find it very difficult to paddle forward. Using the right paddle technique is essential to propelling yourself in the right direction. If your paddle is too far away from the board, you tend to wobble and veer to the right or left. When you keep your paddle close to your board you’re more likely to move straight ahead. It’s also a mental workout! If I get stuck against a current or against a strong wind and think “I’ll never get out of this”, odds are it will feel like a heavy challenge. However, if I keep my head down and try to enjoy the scenery while giving a tough paddle, I find I get unstuck much quicker.

Regardless of my experience and opinion, its observable fact that paddleboarding is becoming quite the hot sport. Grab the latest sports and fitness magazine off the news shelf and you’re likely to find an article about it. Lazy Dog has a media page in which they seem to be collecting local news about the sport. I was able to wrangle up a few other resources (PaddleBoarding.com, Standup Paddle Magazine and Stand Up Paddle Surfing Magazine to name a few).

That being said, I want to give a shout out to the other Key West water sports companies who offer paddleboarding. I go to Lazy Dog because I have friends that work there and I’ve had such a great experience. Eventually I’ll branch out to other companies and you should too! Here are a few other Key West companies that offer paddleboarding as well as other fun water activities:

Lazy Dog

SUP Key West  

Java Cat Charters

Laura is the Marketing Assistant and Reservations agent at Rent Key West Vacations. In her free time she enjoys singing, writing and traveling. If you’d like to read more of Key West from a local’s perspective, head over to her blog.