I saw the first fin about a week ago while we were on our picnic paddle to the swimming hole. A school of small fish jumping and darting away from something. Then the telltale left-right-left sinewy shimmy of the shark. I've never seen a shark while out in/on the water before. It was pretty cool! I think it is shark week on TV. I don't watch shark week because, in the scheme of things I worry about, sharks are low on the list. We don't really have great whites here. Our sharks are only likely to bite you if you step on them or if they think you're chum. The lesson there: TAKE A SHOWER, PEOPLE.
An Audience with the Pope
Tuesday evening we met for our first SUP/Paddle/Fit/Pushups/Terror class with Sweaty. Sweaty has a bigger story to tell. I'm still getting to the bottom of it. Apparently he used to weigh 360 lbs. Now he looks like this: He's extremely fit. Anyway. While waiting for him to meet us for class, Lexy and I bent William Pope's ear about fins. I just love meeting someone who has more stuff than I do. Pope's truck is a certified SUPmobile. The back bed has a nifty rolling cover that opens to reveal multiple tool boxes, coolers, gear, and, so I've heard, a portable shower. I had never tried another fin on any of my boards. Pope got out his fin collection. The fins are wrapped in a couple of towels. He unfolded them the way you'd unfold a jewelry case (if you're a girl), and treated them with equal reverence. Obviously nobody told him that I treat nothing with that reverence and it isn't a good idea to give me a fin to borrow. After discussing the merits of different fins, chief among them, for me, was stability. The wider the fin is, the less tippy your board will be, because there's more surface area in the water. I was still riding the dolphin fin my Bark came with. Pope put a Larry Allison Batfin in my board and I was off and running. HOLY COW. Fins do make a difference! I can see how people can become obsessed with them. I immediately felt more stable with the Batfin. Until the Batfin started to fall off because it was sleeker than my board. After almost losing the fin numerous times, not the least of which was running my Bark straight onto the sand (below), we installed a fin shim. This is a little piece of plastic that helps the fin stay put (above). Wait-you're not supposed to go until you feel sand? There are downwinding fins and surfing fins. There are fins made for flatwater and fins made for chop. I am not the right person to ask about fins. I am learning, though, that listening to a lot of different people talk about fins will give you a lot of different opinions about fins. In any fin conversation you're likely to hear chatter about the weight of the fin. I don't feel like a few ounces of fin weight is going to make a difference in my performance. If I lose 80 lbs, perhaps it would. Pope's little gem on that topic is: If you're worried about fin weight, take a dump before you paddle. Problem SOLVED! I have to say that I think I'm with him on that. If you're Danny Ching, fin weight probably matters. For the rest of us, not so much. There's so much gear that it's easy to get caught up in it all and forget to just go have fun and paddle.
Lucky for me, I have friends who like to engage in ridiculous exploits. I don't think there are enough boards in that truck bed. It's too bad we don't have one of these: Saturday afternoon the wind was blowing hard from the south. That made our planned circular loop all but impossible, so we downwinded from Trail's End to the Carolina Paddle Company. Literally all we had to do was get our boards pointed north and hang on. Which is excellent, because I can barely be bothered to paddle, most days. There is exactly one picture out of about 15 in this album that shows me with my paddle in the water. Maybe that's why I wasn't doing so well with a skinnier fin. No paddling=no stability. Or, I was just practicing for Sweaty's next class. He told us not to wear leashes because we're going to do unconventional things on our boards. WELL. I'll keep you posted.