On my family’s trip to Antigua over Christmas, there was one thing I knew I wanted to try: stand up paddleboarding. This seemed a bit ridiculous for the most uncoordinated person in the world. I also happen to be totally terrified of deep water, and you can’t really stand up paddle in water under 5 feet. Nevertheless, a post from Alex in Wanderland and a desire to overcome my fears led me to research whether I could rent a board on Jolly Beach – and I could! If you haven’t heard of stand up paddling, or SUP, it originated in Hawaii and has become kind of like a real sport recently. I’m basically allergic to exercise, but everyone who’s tried it says it’s a very low impact workout and you’ll have no idea you were exercising until you feel the soreness the next day. Tricking myself into working out? I was sold!
I waited for my sister to arrive on the island, since she was the only member of my family I could convince to come out with me, and found someone who would rent them to us. I’m not sure if we actually rented from Salty Dog Rentals (the company I found before our trip) or just a random guy on the beach: I just know we were told to go find a guy named Tristan. The way they do business in the Caribbean fascinates me.
After a few brief instructions and being given lifejackets (highly necessary for as bad a swimmer as me) and we were off. The people who had been using the boards previously warned us that the wind was deceptively strong, and although it’d be easy to paddle out to sea, getting back in (in my mind, the most important part) would be harder. This proved to be totally true and there were definitely a few moments of pure panic.
Once I got over the fear of drifting out to sea and mastered the art of steering (well, at least grasped the basics) I attempted to stand up. After 3 seconds of balancing gingerly, I got scared and kneeled back down. So brave! After about 15 minutes of berating myself for being a baby, I stood up and stayed there. The actual transition from kneeling to standing may be the hardest part, but once you’re up there it’s not so bad. Jet-skis kept cruising by and sending waves my way, but the board stayed remarkably stable.
My sister has always been less of a scaredy-cat than me, so she was up on her feet much earlier. Staying near eachother was pretty difficult, but anytime she got too far away I paddled briskly after her; my fear of water gets much worse if there’s nobody nearby. Once I got into my groove, I fell completely in love with the freedom of stand up paddleboarding: gliding across the beautiful Caribbean sea, I felt like I was walking on water. I was surprised by how unafraid I felt most of the time. My dad even came out and joined us for a little while – paddling my board was much harder with two people on it, so I naturally made him do it.
After an hour, however, I was ready to head back in for some sunbathing. Getting into shore was quite challenging, but I eventually got there and was immediately knocked down by a wave. Ah, the ocean is so much fun. Embarrassed, I dragged my board back to Tristan and felt how weak my legs were – although that was nothing compared to how sore I’d be the next day!
This hour of SUP showed me that I could get over my fears and really enjoy being out on the water. I can’t wait to try stand up paddleboarding somewhere else, and I’m going to look for the opportunity everywhere I travel!