In the last few years paddle boarding has exploded in popularity. Studies show that the simplicity and quick learning curve means fewer barriers to entry when compared to surfing and other board sports. In fact, in just a few short sessions you could be crushing along the top of just about any calm waterway. As a longtime surfer I decided to give paddle boarding a try and was pleasantly surprised.
The sport consists of a large board similar to a surfboard, a leash, and a single paddle. Beginners usually start by paddling on their knees to get a feel for the balance of the board. After a few strokes most people are confident enough to actually stand up and paddle. My first experience with paddle boarding was in the harbor of Santa Barbara California. This was the perfect place to paddle board because the Channel Islands block any real swell from reaching the coastline. This means the beaches are flat and calm throughout the harbor and the rest of the city.
My initial launching point was off a dock deep in the Santa Barbra Harbor. As an experienced surfer I felt comfortable simply stepping off the dock onto my paddle board to start. Many people who are just beginning would opt to sit on the board first, move away from the dock, and then begin standing up and paddling. After checking out my gear, I quickly proceeded to stand on my board and begin working my way out to the ocean. As I moved past dozens of boats in the harbor I began working my way to the harbor channel. Navigating between boats and other paddle boarders I headed for the harbor opening at make my way into the Pacific Ocean. As I turned the corner I started to hit stronger currents and 10-20 mph winds. Heading north I tried my best to catch some small one foot waves that were crashing on the beach. After a few tries I realized the surf was just too small in Santa Barbara to waste my time catching waves. Instead, I started working my way out to sea and away from the crowds in the shallow water. Once I got between 100 and 200 feet from the shore I decided to take a break and just relax. I stashed my paddle on the rear of the board and laid down to relax in the sun. It was very peaceful just sitting out in the ocean on my very own craft, as small as it may be.
Another great thing about paddle boarding is the fact you are standing and have an elevated position when cruising through the water. It may not seem like much, but being elevated 5 to 6 feet on your paddle board really makes a big different for site seeing and people watching. Not only can you see way further in front of you, you can also looked down and see through crystal clear water. Overall, paddle boarding is a great experience for anyone interested in trying something new. Not only do you get exercise, but paddle boarding gives you the ability to explore shallow waterways that otherwise wouldn’t be possible with a boat. While I haven’t taken my paddle board out into the ocean yet, I’m planning a trip to the coast in the next few weeks to try it out.