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Could this really be fun? Stand-up paddleboarding opens up a whole new world

By on September 23, 2019 in Outdoor Fun with 0 Comments
Mitra Morasch and Jaana Hatton: Stand-up paddleboarding looks effortless, but it actually requires good balance and a lot of muscle coordination and strength to make the board go where you want it to. Add to that some currents in the water and you get yourself a workout. After her first time out, Jaana now wears a life vest every time and hope others do, too. Look for the kind of life vest that is designed for kayaking: they stop higher at the waist and are comfortable. Photos by Ron Hatton

By Jaana Hatton

My journey to overcome biased thinking continues: this time it was stand-up paddle boards. 

I never thought much of the activity, it seemed too lazy somehow. Well, that’s because I had never tried it.

When my friend, Mitra Morasch, was bursting at the seams with excitement while accounting the fun she was having on her newly purchased stand-up paddleboard, I listened closely. 

“It’s so relaxing, Jaana,” she said. “But it’s also a good workout, for the whole body.”

Okay, which one is it: soothing or straining? 

After Mitra continued to explain how you can sit down on it and paddle along quietly or stand up and give your whole body a workout as you push yourself on the water, I was beginning to get the idea. 

It is what you make it to be, a little bit like life itself; some days are like peacefully floating downstream while others make you feel like you’re fighting all the way going upstream.

“What kind of a paddleboard do you have?” I asked, my curiosity intensifying.

“It’s an inflatable one,” Mitra beamed. 

Huh? A pool toy? But she seemed so thrilled with her board it could not be all that bad.

“They are very sturdy once they are pumped up,” Mitra reassured me. “You can’t even tell it’s the inflatable kind.”

That night I was busy on the computer, doing research on inflatable paddleboards. There are so many of them — when did this happen? 

Mitra sent me the name of hers and by the end of the evening, I had ordered one like Mitra’s. I will not mention the brand here as I don’t feel comfortable advertising any product publicly.

A week later we met at Walla Walla Point Park for me to have a lesson in paddleboarding with Mitra. 

By the way, she was as honest as she always is: the board is rock-hard and made of some extremely strong material, reminiscent of a sturdy bike tire, I kid you not, once inflated. And it only weighs about 20 pounds so a little person like me can actually carry it from the car to the water. 

Pray for no wind because the board will catch the breeze like a fine-tuned sail while you are carrying it. You get the picture…

Mitra and I had both watched instructional videos on paddleboarding on YouTube and felt quite confident about our skills. Getting on the board wasn’t nearly as awkward as I thought — I had educated myself, after all — and we got off to a nice start, pleasantly paddling amongst the Canada geese in the lagoon. 

Neither one of us plunged in accidentally, or intentionally, even once. But, you do have to paddle and guide the board, it is work.

After a half an hour we decided to haul our boards across the lawn and head for the Horan Nature area. What a good choice that was!

I walk through the Horan trails with frequency, but the view from the river, slowly gliding through the canals, made me feel like a woman from some long-gone time, hunting for fish for the tribe to eat. 

It was an oddly primal sensation, a closer connection to the natural surroundings than on a man-made path. Our route had been carved by nature, by the rivers flow.

It was amazing how close we got to the waterfowl, they must have regarded us as some odd variation of a gull gone wrong. I was within arms’ reach of geese several times, and gulls allowed me right next to them. Gulls are a bit obnoxious, I think.

Paddleboards can be navigated both standing up or sitting down. Some people even do yoga on them.

I have since gone back by myself, always wearing a life vest, mind you. 

It never gets boring watching the fish in all sizes dart under the board or greeting a deer who will merely give me a peaceful, passing glance from a few feet’s distance. If I were on foot, a deer would skip away in a hurry.

I have tried both the easy and the hard on my board. I have sat cross-legged and let the current carry me, only occasionally steering with the paddle. It truly is relaxing to pause on the river, adrift, with life’s demands fading away as fast as the water flows. 

 I have done the hard thing, too, making my way against the current, the feisty Finn in me demanded the trial. Now that is a workout. 

Going against the river’s flow, I paddled with all my strength, standing up with increasingly wobbly legs, all the while watching the shoreline to mark my progress: I was only moving ahead by inches. 

But, I reached my destination and will not likely fight the current anytime soon; my muscles are mad at me. Paddleboards, with their bulky forms, don’t glide through the water like kayaks.

I thank you, Mitra, for enlightening me. I can once more proceed in life a little wiser and less judgmental. 

Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, they say. Or paddle a bit, that works, too.

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