I choose to Stand Up Paddle because of the paddle, really. I prefer going into battle upright, with a weapon. So when they (they = Tarryn + Tyran @ XOTB) decreed that we were going out on surfboards (it was too windy to SUP), my heart sank a little.
I have never surfed a surfboard before because of the paddle out. (At Muizenberg this can be anything from a twenty meters to six kilometers.) You may imagine that surfing is difficult, but have you ever just tried to paddle out?
Be warned. It’s cold, it’s brutal and it feels like it will never end. That, and you’re prone, scratching at liquid in motion, with waves hitting you in the face very thirty seconds.
But I run ahead of myself. Let’s go back a few frames to the shop. While a surfboard is a mere feather compared to a SUP, it has no handle. (Because you don’t need one, groans the husband later, wallowing in shame, his face buried in his hands.)
The lack of handle isn’t a problem, unless you have arms like mine. Arms that do not (initially) reach around a surfboard. I have to carry the longboard outward (As instructed by the eye-rollingly patient Tyran) on my childbearing hips. I don’t, at this point, realize that there is hope. My arms are about to go through a length altering experience.
I have subsequently seen that others (Orlando Bloom, for example, pictured below) have experienced the same arm-challengey problem.
Down at the beach the wind (that-is-too-windy-for-SUP) is icy. Tarryn gets us to jog up and down for a bit, in the hope of raising our core temperature above hypothermic, and then we practice pop ups. I pat myself on the back (with my short arms) for my efforts with Kayla’s Bikini Body program. Thanks to Kayla I can do 5 burpees in a row.
Can you do a burpee?
You can’t? Shem. Then don’t try surfing. Because a pop up on a surfboard is basically a burpee, except you must do it on a sliver of fiberglass, teetering on ice water and throw in a twist, all in three seconds or less.
Despite Tarryn’s best efforts, and my best BBG training, there was no pop in my up. It is more of a stagger up, a totter up, something you’ve seen before in Bambi, the rise of a newborn foal.
With the knowledge that without a decent pop up, I might forever be doomed to a boogie board, to be the eternal frog on toast, waiting for the transformatory kiss that will never come (No one will kiss you on a bogus board. Fact. Forever a frog.) I make my way to the waterline.
Why do you look so worried?” asks Tyran. I glance at the six kilometers of whitewater ahead of me and decide that he doesn’t realize how OLD I am.
“You’re such a kook,” he says, quite cheerfully. I reflect on which of his amusing foibles I could write about, but then he laughs and shows me how to get over the first line of foam. Good decision, Ty, I think. The pen is mightier than the board.
Next, he repeats Tarryn’s paddle instructions.
“Closed fingers. We’re not straining spaghetti here.”
Keep a bookmark here at spaghetti. I’ll get back to that
If I have learned one thing from SUPping, it is that when there is a gap between sets, you put your head down and paddle like the clappers to back line. Don’t stop, don’t pause, don’t hesitate, don’t say howzit to anyone you might or might not know, don’t wipe your nose, even if snot is free falling down your face. Just paddle. Like the clappers.
So, with my chin hovering above the stringer * I head for the horizon. My strokes feel powerful, so powerful that I envision Jay Moriarity in the movie Chasing Mavericks, when he heads across Half Moon Bay with Frosty Nesson (played by the always lovely Gerard Butler) on a paddleboard. Little do I know, this feeling is but a mind mirage.
Also, I do not realize that the stringer-chin-hover is going to prove a desperate mistake. I notice that Tarryn’s back is arched like a dancer as she paddles out. I try to copy her, in my Best Pilates Cobra, but unfortunately, just like my Best Kayla Burpee missed the mark, my cobra is not good enough.
But I will get back to that.
With the always lovely Gerard firmly in mind, I paddle with a competitive determination I last channeled during fierce rounds of Cluedo with my brothers in the school holidays circa 1986. Soon I am there. At the back. Smooth water. Murky depths. And I am so low and so powerless. After standing up on a Sup, armed with a paddle, the vulnerability is intense.
A set rolls through and I scratch for a wave so ineffectively I might as well not have bothered. Tarryn has to give me a push. Thanks to her, I catch it. I fly down the face at a speed that makes the board hiss. I wonder when would be the exact right time to pop (stagger) up. It’s kind of like when you wax yourself and you’re deciding on which moment to pull the wax off. It’s a short eternity, and the ensuing pain, a certainty.
Anyway, I have almost run aground by the time I make my upward move and it is not like anything you have seen on the World Surf League YouTube Channel
No. It is more like the Zombie resurrection.
A very short lived Zombie resurrection. The shortest Zombie resurrection in all of the Apocalypse.
For then, after the briefest taste of euphoria, it is time to paddle out again. But this time I am less powerful; my Pilates cobra has become a mole snake; my breaths have become rasping and *the girls*…
Yes. *The ladies*. Those that reside in the cups. They start to protest.
I take a break, and wait for the next set. Tyran pushes me onto a wave and I almost beach myself before crawling to my feet. I taste the sweet stoke for a nanosecond and then face another six kilometer paddle back out. Tyran and Tarryn paddle like Olympians and are soon paragons of paddle on a distant horizon. The white water seems eternal, like the The Magic Porridge Pot . It never stops. And neither do *the girls’* complaints. They’re like, ‘Sweetie, arch that back already. This is torture.’
And here we return to spaghetti. My arms are limp and stretched to their limit. There is no arch in my back and there is no strength in my arms either. My full body weight is crushing my *you know whats* to the board. It’s like a marine mammogram.
After about four paddle outs I’m done, as are the 34B’s. Tarryn pushes me onto a last wave and I try to leap up while the board is still hissing. Nope. The hissing immediately morphs into a splashing. But at least my arms have also morphed into those of an Orangutan and they now reach around the board, so I can make a more authentic trip back to the shop.
A last word to the surfer boys about *you know whats* (I know y’all think you have them covered, but read on anyway) You may want to be all Mr Nice Guy here, and say you’ve also had similar problems with your *items*. But we are not talking rash here, bru. We are talking about a crushing that goes all the way into your rib cage. This is up there with breastfeeding and mammography. Not your area.
And a closing nugget for my fellow wahines. Darlings, you of the bra wearing population, if you can’t hold a cobra back arch for five minutes solid? You might want to arm yourself with a paddle and SUP to start with. Or buy the most padded bikini you can find. The Sealy Posturpedic version.
Or hire a personal trainer and get strong so you can keep *the ladies* in neutral.
You could, of course, also just persevere. The more you paddle out, the stronger you will get, right? There is no more perfect training than doing the actual thing.
But don’t say I didn’t warn you. Or your boobs will take revenge on you.
* stringer – the piece of wood that runs down the centre of a surfboard, that incidentally, I came face to face with in PE when I took off on an ankle basher and the board broke, revealing this piece of its anatomy.