#16: Paddle boarding

Posted by Megan on July 28th, 2011

I’ve always wanted to learn how to surf. I’m certain it’s my hidden talent just waiting to be discovered. Never mind I am painfully uncoordinated and possess an unnatural fear of sea life. Unfortunately I live smack dab in the middle of the continent, thus making surfing seemingly impossible. But alas! A new trend is sweeping across theMidwest. Over the last few months urban hipsters have flocked to our urban lakes armed with a the newest contraption of jock nerdery: paddle boards.

Paddle boards are essentially just surf boards you propel with a paddle. So instead of riding victoriously atop a brilliant mass of salt water, you instead must use manpower to force yourself across a dirty lake. Instead of beautiful tropical fish, we have bullheads. Instead of breathtaking views of the horizon we have breathtaking views of butt cracks. Instead of a refreshing ocean breeze, we have a humid musk that somehow smells like puberty. Take that California!

All kidding aside, I love our city lakes. I run hundreds of miles around Minneapolis’s famous chain of lakes each summer. When my friend Jessie emailed to ask if I’d like to learn to paddleboard at mother of all city lakes, Lake Calhoun, I jumped at the chance.

My paddle board buddies Jessie and Jason.

The paddle boarding crew consisted of me, Jessie and another friend, Jason. We had two boards and two paddles. None of us had tried paddle boarding before, but both Jessie and Jason had watched instructional videos on YouTube. When you also take into account the vast athletic ability differential, I was working from a devastating handicap. Jason hopped on a board and got the hang of it in 30 seconds flat. Jessie also caught on quickly as I watched alertly from the shore. I guess this was going to be easier than I thought. Next it was my turn. Jessie advised that I start paddling on my knees to get my balance.

Check out Jason in the background. Something tells me he wasn’t following Jessie’s directions very closely.

After a few strokes I popped up to my feet and shockingly did not fall over. Jessie was an amazingly talented instructor. She gave me simple, easy to follow instructions. Within minutes I had the hang of it. Within a few more minutes I realized it was sort of dumb. Sure – it was an upper body workout, but I didn’t really get the point. Clearly Mid-west surfing is really white trash surfing, and white trash surfing would probably be more fun atop a makeshift raft of Budweiser cases.

 I handed the board off to Jason, and decided to enjoy the beautiful afternoon with a swim instead. I ended up trailing the boards all the way across the lake, swimming for nearly an hour. When we reached the other side we realized:

a) Jessie’s parking meter was dangerously close to running out

b) I was in no shape to swim back

c) We didn’t want to waste summoning a genie to grant us a wish of another paddle board

d) All six of our arms were tired

Free of 130 pounds of cargo, Jason paddled away into the sunset.

 It was a race to the other side of the lake. Jessie was on one board, Jason and I were on the other. Since Jason and I only had one paddle, we resorted to lying down, boogie board style,and paddling in sync with our arms. We were getting no where fast. Pulling 300 pounds with two human arms and two chicken arms is not effective. After extensive debate, we decided to cut the dead weight.  I swam to the nearest shore. Jessie and Jason rescued me about 20 minutes later, then we promptly determined where we should go for beer. Do you see a blog theme developing here?

 Despite the limited enjoyability of paddle boarding, we still had an extremely enjoyable afternoon on the lake. It gave us an excuse to get out and enjoy an often overlooked gem of the Twin Cities. I have to give Minnesotans some credit for making the best of its waveless waters. We may not have surfing, but we do have a undying spirit to make the best of what we’ve got.

  • © 2011 Megan Steil