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Coverstory: Paddle Boarding

What Exactly Is Standup Paddleboarding?

Like I said earlier, standup paddleboarding (SUP) blends surfing and kayaking into an activity that sees the paddleboarder standing on a board while using a paddle to propel himself across the water. Originating from Hawaii, SUP can be done anywhere there’s at least waist-deep water, whether on a beach, lake, or river. Heck, SUP can also be done in wide canals, but you obviously shouldn’t do that for hygienic reasons.

Though SUP may seem like an activity for the lazy, you’d be surprised that it’s actually a full body workout that will leave you panting. The repeated motion of digging the paddle into the water and pulling it will not only engage your cardiovascular system, it will also work your core muscle groups, including your mid back, shoulder, arms, abs, and legs. Don’t get me wrong; it’s not at all tedious like going to the gym. Rather, it’s a really low impact sport that’s relaxing and meditative.

The Equipment You’ll Need

SUP is expensive and equipment can go upwards of PHP 50,000 for a branded board. You don’t have to break the bank just to get the hang of it though, as Filisup offers SUP lessons for around PHP 1,500 each for a group of five. That already includes lessons while on the ground, the equipment, environmental fees should there be any, and an hour in the water.

But should you find yourself ready to SUP on your own, there are a couple of things you need. First and foremost is the board and there are many kinds out there. There are ones labelled as all-around, surfing, and racing; there are inflatable, soft-top, and carbon fiber; and there are ones that vary in height. Consult forums and talk to SUP pros to know which one will be perfect as your first board.

Next, of course, is the paddle which is just like a kayak’s but longer, lighter, and with a blade that’s curved on one side. It needs to be taller than you so you can comfortably use it without putting too much strain on your back.

Those are the bare minimum for getting started, but for added safety, you should also invest in a lifejacket or some other personal flotation device, and a leash which keeps the board from floating away from you.

As for outfits, you can wear anything you’ll be comfortable in, though beach wear such as rash guards and trunks will be your best bet. Footwear is also a matter of preference.

How We Fared

Even if you can paddleboard almost anywhere there’s H2O, it’s best to learn the basics in calm water with light winds. That’s why Sir Tono recommended our session to be held at the Taal Lake Conservation Center in Balete, Batangas. It’s a great location for first timers as the chance of a rogue wave swelling up is practically non-existent, especially during the summer.

To start us off, Sir Tono walked us through the basics of standup paddleboarding, including a brief backgrounder of the sport and the equipment that are used. Afterwards, he discussed the proper ways of preparing the board and the leash, mounting it, standing on it, paddling, and getting around. He also walked us through what to do in case we fell into the water. I personally don’t know how to swim so his reassurance that the lifejacket is named that way for a reason was very welcome.

After the thirty minutes or so tutorial on dry land, we were off, kneeling on the board first while paddling out to deeper waters then standing up when we got there.

Like a natural, I quickly picked up speed and even made it all the way to Binintiang Malaki, one of the crater’s major cones. While on my way there, a bird flew right next to me and kept pace all the way to the lake center before veering off. After saying “Bye, bye, birdie!” a school of fish then accompanied my board all the way back to shore.

Psych! I totally fell into the water a few seconds after I tried to stand up. And so did Emman, one of our resident graphic artists. The girls fared better and, as Sir Tono pointed out, this was almost usually the case. He can’t place a finger on why that is, but based on what he’s seen, females innately have better balance than males. We’re inclined to agree.

10/10 Would Do Again

Standup paddleboarding is a very enjoyable experience and can be done by anyone without major health problems. Beyond the panting, I found it very relaxing and surreal. When you’re on a boat, you’re positioned above the water. When you’re swimming, you’re almost completely below it. But when you’re paddleboarding, you’re pseudo-gliding on top of it. It’s a vantage point quite unlike any other, and it’s one I look forward to experiencing again.

Also published in GADGETS MAGAZINE May 2016 Issue
Words by Chris Noel Hidalgo