Stand Up Paddling’s Multiple Personalities

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By Marina Andriola
First, a disclaimer. This blog post pokes fun. It is not my intent to discourage you from your personal paddling goals. Truth is, I’d rather be stand up paddling than writing. Which is saying a lot, because I love writing more than exercise. That was until I discovered these giant rafts of fun.

Feel free to be a dork and be naive. Stay open to ideas. Try it all. Go fast, go slow, stand, sit, kneel, genuflect, fall in or don’t. The real beauty of stand up paddling is in the incredible variations it offers. Stand up paddling creates profound and positive experiences for every type and age and fitness level. Paddlers tend to be the least offended or offensive people in the water. They’re too busy paddling around to be making fun of others who are paddling around. Let me, the writer, do that.

The Weekend Warrior Stand Up Paddler

weekend warriorsThese are the paddlers that suddenly fill every parking space in a lot that’s normally empty. They look tired before they even get the board off the car, because the continual stomach punch of a 5 day work week leaves dents and knots on their core that only a good paddling will erase. I’m talking paddling in water, people. The Weekend Warrior takes his/her time to get the board off the car and into the water.

They’re in no hurry to finish any of the steps of the routine. It’s Saturday, and going home means doing mountains of laundry, homework with their kids, garage cleaning and the zillion other things that fully employed people have to squeeze into a glorious weekend that was originally intended for leisure. So when a Weekend Warrior is talking your ear off about this board or that lake, indulge a little in the banter. Realize that this might be the only chance that the Weekend Warrior has to talk about this passion with you, a paddling stranger who actually sorta cares.

The Dog Whispering Penghou

The Dog Whispering PenghouLyle Lovett sings, “If I had a pony, I’d ride him on my boat.” Being that most boats are not big enough for pony riding, I prefer to imagine Lyle Lovett as a half horse, half human centaur, which would make better use of limited deck space. A penghou is another mythical creature; this one with the face of a man and the body of a dog. Stand up paddlers bypassed the laws of physics to bring you a new, floating version of the penghou. Despite having 6 legs, two arms and only one paddle, the new penghou is most at home on the water.

The penghou gets a lot of attention from other penghous. Sometimes bones are tossed from one penghou to another. The bone tossing often attracts birds and large predatory fish that expect the same free lunch from the two-legged paddlers. When not on the water, the penghou reverts back to two separate creatures. One chases your cat and sheds on your couch; the other washes down all your gluten-free crackers and peanut butter with the last two beers in your fridge (while never apologizing for the inconvenience this causes you).

The Yogini

yogini sup yogaPretzels are created by twisting soft dough into impressive ropes and knots, then boiling, salting and finally baking the shaped dough to golden deliciousness. Sup yoginis go to just as much trouble to get themselves into their twisted pretzel shapes. On wide, floating sup platforms, the Yogini balances on tiny points of their own impressive anatomy.

In briny seas or salt-free lakes, these fat-free human pretzels perform a show of precarious posterior poses on odd platforms that oddly resemble surfboards but are NOT built for speed. Floating by like appetizer plates being passed through a watery buffet. Tits on a Ritz is what the surfers named my surf mat riding sister and me, way back in the day. The yoginis make me nervous. Envious. Restless. And hungry for crunchy snacks.

The Gear Head

gear headDo you know which board manufacturer just came out with a thinner foiled, more progressive rocker than seen in the previous year’s same model? Do you care that bumping the board width one quarter of an inch, and shaving two inches off the overall length just gave this design more bite? With the legendary memory of Rainman and the passion of a three-balled tomcat, the Gear Head spends countless hours gathering product knowledge. His computer’s bookmarks are a litany of every sup site ever created.

The Gear Head’s goal is to illuminate us on the confusing points of darkness that surround our own sup possibilities. He has friends and fans all over the world that know him only by a handle and avatar that hints of tropical coordinates. (Hey, Southwesterly, are you still online?) Speaking of lights, have you seen the halogen headlamp the Gear Head is sporting? Like a Boy Scout, a Gear Head is always prepared to lead us out of the lost corners of our own ignorance.

The Speed Racer

the speed racerThe Speed Racer is the person that is good at everything athletic. You can brag to a potential Speed Racer about how fun stand up paddling is. You’ll eventually convince this friend to give it a try, after encouraging him with all of your best tips. The Speed Racer will be hesitant to acknowledge how much success they can expect. After all, you are the expert and you’ve been at it for a pretty long time now. The first time a Speed Racer gets on a board, he’s up, off and running; passing you by at the first mile mark, and making circles around the buoy until you can finally catch up. The Speed Racer is not only faster than you on your race board, he’s faster than you on the ultra wide softtop that he just borrowed from his wife, the Yogini. Run Forrest, run!

The Active Wearer

the active wearerWant to know how to look hauté while staying warm this winter? Mushroom is not just an accessory for steak, you know! Mushroom is the new IT color for winter. But did you know that one’s mushroom is another’s graphite? Do you comprehend the vast differences separating ordinary fleece from non-shedding fleece, performance fleece, micro fleece and wind-shearing fleece? Did Mary have an eco-friendly lamb, and was his fleece as white as snow due to diet or inferior chemical bleaching? Are we fully aware of the ramifications of stand up paddling in the same ugly clothes we wore last season? Do you even realize just how dangerous a non-corrosive zipper can be?

No? Ask an Active Wearer for a personalized wardrobe consultation, pronto! Like the Gear Head, the Active Wearer puts mega watt energy into their study of the latest outdoor clothing trends. They first saw stand up paddling in an REI catalog. The models rocked those quick dry yoga pants hard; they had no choice but to give paddling a try. Devotees of soft cover travel “magazines” written by J. Peterman or J. Crew; it’s no wonder that the Active Wearer is as confused about Anthropology as we are.

The Aging Surfer

The Aging SurferThe Aging Surfer’s place in the pecking order at his favorite surf break was falling faster than an overlooked coconut at a Sandals resort. Despite the humiliation of noodled arms and failed take offs, the Aging Surfer would rather die than try stand up paddling. To him, sup surfers are kooks and these “stand up comedians” have no place in his line-up.

Then, on a vacation, on a whim, he looks around to make sure nobody is watching as he mounts a stand up paddle board. Taking a few tentative strokes with the disdained paddling stick object, he finds that paddling is kind of fun. He’s smiling like a baby taking a first step. A light goes on. Progressing from sup hater, to silent participant, to convert; the Aging Surfer enjoys the uptick in his surfing prowess.

Like a visit to the Fountain Of Youth, sup renews his confidence. The Aging Surfer becomes a boastful zealot. His unenlightened surf buds are left to flounder. On his new sup stick, the Aging Surfer’s wave count at places with names like Old Man’s and Chicken’s goes through the roof. He’s a ‘sweeper’ now and his cherished old surfboards are given away to his kids or the neighbor’s kids. Everyone notices a new kick in his step, a new lightness of being. Like Viagra boosts the confidence and more of every male boomer; stand up paddling gives aging surfers an erect and proud stance not experienced since Nixon left the White House. With sup, he gets back his Five Summer Stories. The Aging Surfer intends to make them into 5000 or more new sup stories.

Marina Andriola is a lifelong Californian. She blogs about surf culture, food, design and people. Her Facebook page: Women of SUP inspires paddlers of all sizes and abilities; pro surfers to grandmothers. “Waterwomen are all that. Our common bond is we’re happiest wet!”


Have Some Fun and Let Us Know What Your Standup Paddling Personality is in the Comments Below


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Freelance writer, designer and water woman here. I write/blog about food, farming, aquaculture, design, sustainable building, architecture, surfing and stand up paddling. Love to bodysurf, bodyboard, stand up paddle surf, hula hoop and dance. I also love to cook. Why eat power bars, when you can have grilled sardines? My three beautiful babies are now fantastic adults. We also had a billy goat with us for almost two decades. (And lots of cats, dogs and chickens.) My former husband and I started the Hog Island Oyster Co. a growing concern, over three decades ago. Time marches on and life is good for all except for the goat, who died at age 18; pretty old for a goat. Thank you for reading.

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