What's SUP | Eclectic Cake: What's SUP

Thursday, 8 October 2015

What's SUP

Headed for a bush on the lake edge with no sign of the board submitting to my attempts to turn the thing, I started to sink to my belly to splash my way out. Luckily Sam, our stand up paddleboard instructor, was more determined than me. He refused to let me give up (despite sniggering to himself as the nose of my board became garnished with shrubbery).

Flicking through the ways I've kept myself busy over the last few months, it's quite clear I love to try new activities – football, gorge walking, outdoor bouldering, skateboarding, canoeing. Variety is indeed the spice of life and there are very few activities I wouldn't try. In fact, I'm yet to dust of an unused 'no'. It may never happen but I draw the line at trying something for the first time in a race.

Faced with that exact possibility, only a week away from the Chichester #SUPBikeRun event, I snapped up a last minute place on one of their SUP training sessions. They hold a few throughout the year as well as full-day sessions which also cover the remaining two disciplines – mountain biking and trail running. With plenty of mud, this sounded like the event for me...besides the fact I'd never paddled before.

It was quite clear I wouldn't be going for a win, come race day, most of our group hopped on their boards and glided off for a tour of the lake. I on the other hand, was still shuffling slowly over sharp stones just to get to the water.

I finally waded in and belly flopped onto my board to join the small beginner group. Elegant as always! But according to Sam, this was a good place to begin. If all else fails, if you lose your paddle, if you feel too wobbly, if a freak shark attack leaves you short of a leg, simply lie on your belly and paddle with your arms. Seeing as none of us had got to that desperate state yet, we progressed to kneeling and then standing up on the board, using the paddle to pull ourselves along. Funnily enough, with the right tools for the job, we moved through the water far more efficiently. Nailing both forwards and backwards, I attempted a turn.

According to Sam, sticking your paddle in the water wide and deep, then sweeping it slowly around should turn your board round easily. Mine merely teased me with a little wobble then carried on going straight. It took me at least eight pushes of the paddle to do a 180. Not ideal.

Like a regular swim-bike-run triathlon, the water course for #SUPBikeRun would feature buoys, which we were to zig-zag around to eventually make our way from one side of the lake to the other. Turning was going to be essential. Unless the organisers had made enough room for a large ship to turn, I'd be circling the entire course...or indeed, stuck in shore shrubbery.

I think you can always tell a good instructor by how many ways they have to teach one thing. The first turning technique was obviously not working for me but Sam had a magic formula up his sleeve. I turned just before being engulfed by green. To make sure it wasn't a fluke, I was sent to the SUP equivalent of a crèche to practice.

After battling with strong winds and a pesky lump of sand where I spent quite a while beached, I felt ready when it was time to graduate to the rest of the lake.

I was ready to race. Typical, then that I didn't make it. About to unleash my new found SUP skills on the world, I broke my bike in all the excitement whilst loading it into the car. I guess it wasn't just the SUP I needed training for.

Keep an eye on the #SUPBikeRun page for details on entries for next year.

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