By Blaise Douros
When I moved to Monterey for my first job out of college in the mid 2000s, Stand-Up Paddleboarding wasn’t really a “thing.” From my office (which had a view of the bay), I would occasionally see people on really big surfboards and a long canoe paddle inching around the outside of the kelp forests. Most of the time they had to get down on their stomachs and paddle with their hands, when they weren’t comically falling off, and painstakingly working their way back onto the boards. “What a silly thing to do,” I thought. “If the paddle is that ineffective, why carry it at all? And what’s the fun in falling off all the time?” I concluded that Monterey had an epidemic of a mildly contagious debilitating brain condition that caused these masochists to go out and dunk themselves in the freezing water.
As time went on, I realized that most of these silly people were rank amateurs, and were actually on this contraption for the first time. I began to see people who were obviously more practiced, gliding along with little apparent effort. I learned that there was a kayak shop down on the other side of Cannery Row that was renting these things out; apparently, it was a hot new craze. I’m an admitted curmudgeon, and it took me a while to admit to myself that OK, I kind of wanted to go try it.
So one weekend, I went out with my wife and a group of friends to try out Stand-Up Paddleboarding. My wife was determined not to like it; she’ll be the first to tell you she’s on the klutzy side, and she was convinced that she was going to spend the entire time clambering back onto the board from Monterey’s 55° Fahrenheit water. I wasn’t looking forward to hearing about it afterward, either.
To our surprise, the rental shop was well prepared. SUP boards had come a long way from the early days that I had seen through my office window; there are now wider, thicker boards for the newbies, longer boards for the speed demons, and boards geared more specifically for catching and riding waves. My wife didn’t fall off at all, and I only fell twice, mostly because I tried hotdogging by doing a headstand on my board but also because of the time that my wife pushed me in. She tells this story as often as possible.
The point is, it was a lot of fun, and we didn’t have to get wet unless we wanted to. And we definitely didn’t have to paddle with our hands.
For us, paddleboarding has now become an activity that we can enjoy with our families—we took my in-laws out last time we went. Are we the hotshots that go out and steal waves from the surfers? No. That would result in a lot more falling-off-of-board-to-sound-of-wife-laughing-for-days-afterward. But it’s great to go silently cruise around the kelp with otters and sea lions popping up to check us out.
With the release of our all-condition GoBe light, I’m looking forward to getting out on a paddleboard at night sometime—I haven’t tried it yet (the person in the website photos is much better looking than me), but I bet it’ll be awesome. And I bet the people in the oceanfront hotels will be going “what kind of brain-damaged masochist would go out on a paddleboard at night?” The answer, of course, will be “Me.”