Hello, my name is Katie and I’m a fat paddleboarder.

Oh, don’t worry—it’s ok. I know I’m carrying around a bunch of extra pounds—about 86 to be exact (but I’m down 14!)—so it won’t ever hurt my feelings if someone’s like “Eh, what is SHE doing out there?”

Except that I don’t have to worry about that, ever. Nobody in the paddle community has ever made me feel like anything less than the super stoked, slightly crazy paddle athlete that I am. And that’s one reason I love paddleboarding.

The only time that anyone has looked anything like concerned was during my first paddleboard race, the Freaky Flotilla at Wrightsville Beach in 2010. The main concern of the two nice Coast Guard gentlemen in the following chase boat was that I wasn’t having a heart attack.

“I’M FINE,” I would yell repeatedly just so they knew I wasn’t about to keel over. They were as excited for me as I was when I reached the halfway point under the second bridge and turned for home. I was on a Starboard Whopper, not exactly a fast flatwater board, but I was tooling along and I was fine.

Not Everyone is Karen Wrenn, but Everyone can CHANNEL Karen Wrenn

That sounds like kind of a bad pun, given Karen’s history paddling the Channel Islands in California. I took her clinic when she was here to win the Carolina Cup in 2011. She was so nice and friendly and helpful, even to the newbies she was teaching. I love people who are ROCK STARS but will still help the little people. That’s another reason I love the paddleboarding community. I’ve watched the footage and read the blog posts about Karen’s epic paddle through the Islands.

On days when I’m struggling to paddle the same 3.5 miles around Harbor Island that I paddle almost every day, I channel Karen. “If Karen Wrenn can paddle for 12 hours in headwinds and three foot chop where there are great white sharks circling and ready to eat her, I can paddle the backside of Banks Channel.” It helps to have people to look up to. I look at the challenges that these athletes undertake and I dig deep and find what I need to keep going. If I can’t paddle standing up, I’ll get on my knees. If I can’t stay up on my knees, I’ll prone paddle. If I’m too tired to paddle for a few minutes, I’ll lie on my board and float. Who cares? I’m out there.

My Mentors and Role Models

I’ve been at this for *almost* two years. I have had a bunch of people help me along the way. John Beausang, A.K.A. The Mullet, basically financed my way into paddleboarding. Jason from Carolina Paddleboard Co humors me when I call up for the weather report and is more than generous welcoming groupies to the shop. Guy Davis, A.K.A. The Paddlefather, has gotten me going on my race board (ENABLER), and encouraged his little posse of groupies by just being a Standup Guy. My Wednesday Mullet Group has never left me out of eyesight, even when I’ve been on my slow boat. April Zilg and Karen Wilson give me people to chase. My husband has been ever patient, putting up with my endless accumulation of gear.

But this Isn’t an Oscar Speech

We all have those awesome people who inspire us and help us. I hope that if you’re a fat paddleboarder or a wannabe paddleboarder maybe I can inspire you. If I can do this, anyone can do this. I was always the most uncoordinated person at sports. My tap dance teacher told my Mom she was basically doing her six year old daughter a favor by letting her in the recital at all. I’ve never been skinny. Or fashionable. Or cool. On the water, though, I’m the Flying Kelp Goddess. (A nod to my Freaky Flotilla Costume.) I’m a cool one, ‘cause I’m out there. It’s not about the races. It’s not even about the gear. It’s about the people you meet, and the dolphins you see, and the exercise you get.

You start paddling, and you’ll lose pounds. I promise. But you’ll gain a lot more—confidence, friends, fitness, stoke.

Please, if you’ve stumbled on the Mullet because you are curious about SUP, take a lesson. Rent a board, give it a try. Stick with it. If you’re not fit, it will be a little bit hard at first. But it’s so worth it. Katie Elzer-Peters   — Katie Elzer-Peters The Garden of Words, LLC "Business Writing for Busy Bees" www.thegardenofwords.com 317-313-8366 —– Author, Beginner's Illustrated Guide to Gardening —– Manager Great Garden Speakers www.greatgardenspeakers.com Horticulture, Design, Ecology Speakers for Every Occasion

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