As with all things Muddy Masochist, it started with a hunger, and a search. A search for something energetic, something adventurous, something in which I could get my feet wet. Zero to 3 hours over 2 days and now I am suffering for it. Ok so maybe I over did it slightly but it was worth it.
Day 1: The Basics
The word ‘Stand Up Paddleboarding’ conjures up images of tanned, toned, beautiful people standing tall on a board, flicking the water with their paddle while the sun boils into the sea behind them. Well, that isn’t the case.
Before you can run you learn how to walk, before you can walk you learn how to crawl, before you Stand Up Paddleboard, you Sit Up Paddleboard and work out how to move and steer. So for the first part of my first session I spent a lot of time, on my knees, in the Sit Up Paddleboarding position, trying not to crash into the expensive boats or the other pontoons.
The boards are big. Bigger than a ‘learning’ surfboard. Despite that, the boards are extremely maneuverable and susceptible to the current. Even in the relative calm of the sheltered harbor. They are also a little bit unstable, you are after all on water. This sport requires a lot from you. A strong core, strong legs, strong arms and a degree of flexibility. But don’t let this put you off, anybody can do this, it just takes discipline, concentration and a bit of practice. The more you do it, the more you work the muscle groups you need, the strong you will get.
Learning to stand
Right, so far so good. I am go, largely in a straight line. now it is time to stand up. Like surfing, get your feet and your knees under you, stand up, put the paddle in the water. Right. here we go. feet under my knees. Good. Stand up. Good. Paddle in. Good. Ooh. Wobbly, Uh oh.
It took me 20 seconds to stand up, it took me a 20th of a second to end up in the water. First blood has been drawn – 1-0 to the sea. It is a good job I enjoy getting wet because I spend the next 10 minutes standing up and falling in or desperately trying to steer my board away from the expensive boats.
Standing up is hard. Steering is hard. I decide to stick to Sit up Paddleboarding, improve my paddling technique.
That solitary/social schism
We eventually head out to sea, it is a bit windy today and the Jet SKi hoodie types are out menacing the fishes. As I try to keep up with the class I realise how much strength is required to paddle against the tide. I realise now what my mistake was, every time I got close to the rocks I would stop, do a sharp turn and start – by stopping I lost all my momentum and ended up fighting the tide to get the power back up to generate forward momentum. Stand Up Paddleboading (including its sub-sect Sit Up Paddleboading) is an endurance sport and like running, both social and solitary. When you are in a group – preparing to go out, or taking a rest, everybody can talk and laugh and go for a swim. But when it comes to the actual paddling, the activity is distilled down to the basics, you, a paddle, a board and a waypoint.
Don’t you hate it when….
By the end of the first session, I suddenly got the hang of standing up. I finally got my knees bent enough to the thigh burning, knee knocking 30 degree angle needed to maintain my balance. I am wet, I am thirsty, I am hungry and my thighs are complaining. What a great first day on the water.
The learning curve for the basics of paddleboarding is steep but speedy. As I stand up for the first time, today, I find that the bend needed to stay stable is still thigh burning and knee knocking. But it is maintainable.
Today, I manage to paddle standing up in the harbour – avoiding the boats and the pontoons (mostly) I even manage to power through the sea and react to the small waves. I am still the slowest in our small group but my progress is steady, I am – if anything, consistent. The majority of my dips in the warm waters around Doha are largely forced when our instructor tells us to jump in and cool off, or makes us do Squat jumps – hard enough on dry land, let alone on a floating 2×1 board, a beginner supper doing a squat jump is almost guaranteed to end up in the drink, and we don’t mind that.
The forced ‘stop and have a drink breaks’ are also welcomed, one does not realise how dehydrated one gets, especially when one is in the water all the time and the recommended 1.5 liters is more of a minimum than a guideline. I am glad I have some Isotonic drink in my bag.
At the end of the session, with an accumulative 3 hours on the water, my thighs are complaining, my arms are sore and my abs feel like they have been working. And as I hobble away from the beach I know the next day is going to hurt. But I don’t care. I feel strong, I feel cooled off, I had fun. I cannot wait to go back. And it’s way more fun than a cross-fit or spin class.
If you are in Doha and want to give it a go, then go and check out QSUP.me or find them on Facebook.
If you are one of my UK readers, then do not despair. Crewroom have just started doing SUP on the Thames at Putney Embankment.