Always striving to learn something new, Stand Up Paddling (SUP) made an easy entry onto my bucket list ever since my conversation with Tanvi Jagadish took off for Inspire Crew, on her many victories in this sport. Not too sure if I have athletic skills, but being a water baby I was definately not giving this opportunity, of learning with one of the country's best SUP'ers a miss.
Summers come early in South India, and most of us are doing our best at dodging the scorching heat. But it had been a while since I got out of my box and stretched out to newer experiences. I knew I needed change. I needed calm, but a strengthening one. I needed rhythm, but a natural one.
So I googled the weather conditions, the internet poured out about precautions and measures for ‘Fani’ in the east. I figured I was destined to move west. A quick call to Tanvi and we set the date to introduce myself to SUP at the Satva Camps.
First things first, a quick idea of what Stand Up Paddling is. It is a water sport where a flat board similar to a surfboard is used to stand on and a paddle to row and move around on water. It originated in Hawaii. It is considered to be the world’s fastest growing water sport and is picking up in many countries.
Second, absolute necessary equipment for SUP as a beginner; stand up paddle board, paddle, fins, leash, and life-jacket (always!).
Third, does one need to know how to swim? You need not, Tanvi will save you. Haha! But on a serious note beginners are never trained on fierce waters. I had the luck of learning the sport in the beautiful backwaters of Papanashi at the Padukere/Pithrody Udyavar Beach.
The water has low currents. If you fall in the water (which Tanvi believes no SUP lesson is complete without at least one fall) the life-jacket will keep you afloat. The water being tranquil you can easily get back on your board.
We began with a quick theory session learning parts of the SUP board and the Paddle, how it is placed, how it is carried and how it is used. Most important of all, a paddler must stay connected to its board at all times and hence make sure the leash of the board is tied to one of your ankles.
Tanvi also explained how to understand the water you are getting into. Which way is the wind blowing, the swell and the flow of the water that determines your speed.
Next, your posture when you are stand up paddling. Keep your ankles firm and shoulder length apart, knees loose and a tight core. The board pulses on the water due to ripples, the loose knees must absorb and adjust to the water movement, and the strong core helps in keeping your back upright and to paddle forward.
Lastly, how to stand up on the board and take a fall. When you set out in to the water, you start on your knees and gain balance by understanding the water. Once you move a little further in, lift your first knee, then the second and slowly from a squat position stand upright and immediately start paddling to gain back balance. Whenever you are losing balance, always make an attempt to fall backwards on the board to avoid hurting yourself.
With all the mental notes made I was pumped to test it for real. I was excited for sure. But to tell you the truth I was definitely nervous as swimming in natural water bodies isn’t the best of my skills.
Getting on my knees on the board and pushing myself in to the water came much easily than I expected. In fact I had imagined myself to fall in the first 5 seconds. To my surprise I was doing well paddling into the backwaters.
And then, I had to do it, I had to stand up, and I could feel my gut tense. My knees were shaky already. Tanvi helped me calm down. I followed her instructions as she walked me through it. I lifted my right knee, and then left. Took a deep breath and slowly started to rise from the squat position.
“I’m shaking, i’m shaking, i’m shaking....whoops!” I fell back on my knees.
Tanvi and I paddled around a little more helping me regain confidence. And then came my second attempt. So back again, the right knee, the left knee, and gradually rose from the squat. A slight dis-balance and Voila! I did it! I stood up in my second attempt. Immediately started paddling to recover my balance and before I knew it, I was doing it! I was stand-up paddling!
Within a matter of five to ten minutes my legs, my hands, my entire body started to learn the movements of the water and adjust accordingly. We paddled about 3 km in to the setting sun.
I learnt how to change directions of the board with the paddle movements, how to move closer and away from the shores and how to reverse which is the tricky part. Most beginners lose balance when trying to reverse the board. Well yes, you guessed it, that’s when I had my first fall and as instructed I fell backwards and on the board. No damage done. The fall experience was fun.
For a while we took a break, laid down flat on the board looking up at the orange painted twilight sky. It was quiet and soothing. I remember only feeling happiness and contentment in that moment. I was smiling to myself, to the sky, to the moment I had tuned in with. The change, the calm, the rhythm that I was looking for, it was all here, in that very moment.
Hey there bucket list!...SUP...Check!
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