Travel Lessons: What I Learned Trying to Paddle Board

Over the past few years I have wanted to learn how to paddle board. I am not particularly sure why I wanted to learn. I think the main appeal was that it was something that I can’t normally do where we live in Dallas, so it just seemed like a fun thing to try to learn. Afterall, everybody makes it look SO easy!


In April of 2015 we had the great fortune of going to Maui. Paddleboarding had been on my bucket list for some time now, and I knew Maui would be the perfect place to finally cross it off my list; or so I thought! The condo building we stayed at had some paddle boards for rent, so after a few days of putting it off, I finally rented one and decided that this was the day I was going to learn how to paddle board like a pro!


I took the board out to the beach area behind our condo and started off paddling on my knees. This by itself was pretty difficult. I am pretty sure I fell off several times just when trying to stay on my knees. I immediately knew that paddle boarding was in fact not as easy as it looked. To make matters worse, the area I was trying to paddle board in was way too shallow! A reef ran about 60-100 yards off shore and I didn’t feel comfortable getting that far away from the beach.

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I finally “mastered” being able to paddle on my knees. I use the term mastered very loosely here…


I finally decided it was time to stand up! I proceeded to fall down time after time! At this point, the shallow water was really becoming an issue. When I was on my knees I could fall off of the board somewhat gracefully (anybody that knows me knows that I am not graceful), but when I was standing up, I would just fall all over the place. After many attempts at standing, I fell and hit my knee on the coral underneath the water. The coral cut down my shin pretty hard and blood began running down my leg. I immediately hated paddle boarding! With a shark attack happening only days prior, I did not feel like hanging out in the water with blood coming out of my leg for too terribly long!


I came back to shore sure that I was never going to be able to paddle board. I am pretty sure I was about to cry from the cut on my leg! I am a baby, I know….

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Now it was Hillary’s turn! She hopped on the board without any problems and started paddling like she has been doing it her entire life! Although I did not admit it at the time, this pissed me off even more! I will be the first to admit that Hillary was way better balance and general body control than I do, but it still frustrated me! I couldn’t quit after watching her do it so easily. I am way too competitive for that!


We decided that I was never going to succeed in learning how to paddle board in such shallow water, so we strapped the board to the top of our rental car and took off for a beach that we knew had deep water and no coral or rocks. On the way to the beach we decided to stop at a craft sale on the side of the road, I am sure you can guess which one of us wanted to do that!


As if my paddle board experience was not going well enough we made the mistake of closing the car doors with the paddle board straps enabling us from reopening the car doors! As we realized what a foolish mistake we had just made, we just stood there and looked at each other! Oh yeah, did I mention the car was running? Here we were on the side of the road staring at one another as our car was locked shut with a running engine. Several thoughts were running through our heads, none of which were positive! Luckily we were able to release a small amount of tension on the straps in order to get the car door open.


I was pretty certain that I was never meant to paddle board!


After a stressful start to our drive, we finally made it to the beach we were headed towards. Now was my time to shine! The only problem about this beach was that it was a nice, resort style beach with hundreds of people at it. Typically, I wouldn’t think beach goers would pay too much attention to the paddle boarders, but I promise you they will when you are providing their entertainment for the afternoon!


My struggles continued, however they were much less painful now that I was in deep water.


You know that feeling when you are certain people are watching you? Yeah, that’s how I felt. My feelings were validated when I went back to shore to talk to Hillary and she told me several people had come up to her and asked if that was her husband! I believe one of the comments that was made to her was “Wow, he hasn’t even stood up once yet!”


Those were some encouraging words. Thanks guys!


Now that I knew people were watching me, I was hell bent on being able to actually stand up on the STAND UP paddle board. After several hours, I was finally able to stand up for short periods of time and paddle around. I even made a few paddle board/surfer friends when I was out there! Well, mostly I just tried to stay out of their way. I think I was probably pretty annoying to them, but they had to admire the fact that I was not giving up!


Finally feeling satisfied with my paddle board experience, I headed back to shore towards Hillary. As I got closer to her she gasps and ask if I am ok. Not exactly the greeting I was expecting. Apparently sometime during one of my many falls the paddle board fin cut my forehead and a huge lump had formed!


Unlike my first paddle board scare, I felt proud of this one. The cut on my head felt like a small trophy to take home from conquering the paddle board! Now if you’re reading this thinking “Why did he have such a hard time on a SUPB?”, you’re raising a valid question. The waves on the beach I was trying to paddle at were not very conducive to a smooth ride. When I had seen people on a paddle board previously it was always on a smooth lake or river, never 3-4 foot ocean waves! I have since paddle boarded in the bahamaas with incredibly smooth water and had no issues. I tell you this to shift the blame from my lack of balance and coordination to that of the rocky waters of Maui! 🙂

This experience is one that I will never forget. As cliche as it seems, it truly taught me to never give up. Riding a stand up paddle board was a goal I had set for myself, yet I was willing to quit after a few bumps and cuts. Luckily, Hillary’s skill and persuasiveness would not let me leave Hawaii without crossing that off of my list. It also taught me that you can’t be afraid to fail (or fall) in front of others. Had I been too shy to try paddle boarding in front of the entire Four Seasons resort, I would have never accomplished my goal. Although people may have been getting free entertainment at my expense, I found myself even more determined to continue to get back on the board until I was successful.


Whether you want to learn how to paddle board, surf, lose 50 pounds, play an instrument, learn a new language, or quit your job and  travel the world, know that it will not be easy; people will be watching you and rooting for you to fail; there are going to be times when you get hurt and or embarrassed; this is part of the process. Let those eyes on you be a motivating factor in your success. If you have a goal, do not let anything stop you from reaching it, no matter how long it takes!


If there is one lesson to be learned here, is is that to remember that when you have something strapped on top of your car and secured around the doors do not roll your windows up and shut the doors! 


Here is a short video of Hillary paddle boarding in the Bahamas!


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