Above, Kate from Stand Up Outfitters

Getting schooled means getting your clock cleaned, getting the stuffing beat out of you, and eating a big piece of humble pie. Yup, all those things and cupcakes too. With paddling, it’s being willing to listen, try, fail, get back up, get out of your comfort zone, push hard, blow up, and learn. I’m an “old girl dog”, but I want to learn new paddling skills. I want to learn to SUP surf, do magnificent buoy turns and prone paddling. So, I’m going to get my clock cleaned. I’m going to get schooled.

Stand Up Outfitters- Real School

Lucky for me, Kate Lewis of Stand Up Outfitters in New Bern, North Carolina is holding a series of Monday morning clinics in my own Carteret County backyard. These are simple, one hour, inexpensive, skill-focused clinics. How could I NOT take advantage of these sessions! The winds and weather conditions were just right for the first clinic to be about SUP surf; uh oh, class is held.

Kate helped me watch for sets and then go in and out of the gentle roller surf line. We got past the gentle break and there were dolphins right by and under us, like finding all the Easter eggs! I tried to put my pride aside and be honest; I told her I knew NOTHING about sup surf. Two things that resonated with me was her reminder to keep my paddle in the water ALL the time and secondly to just be relaxed on my board, that every swell or bump doesn’t mean I have to do some aggressive or spastic maneuver in response; just feel it, absorb it and flow with it. Simple concepts, but big impact in my brain. I paddled back and forth, wasn’t quite brave enough to surf, but I got relaxed and had fun. The next day, I took my Surftech Roxy 10’6” out and practiced moving back on my board and turning. I kept my paddle in the water the entire time and tried to just be relaxed, not go all stiff Gumby. Again simple concepts, big impact. I did good, Kate would have been proud!

Getting Schooled at the Paddle Bender

The following Saturday, June 7th, I was the only female standup paddler in the 8 mile Paddle Bender race on Lake Murray in South Carolina. It’s kind of fun to be first, last and only, all at the same time against a field of hard charging men on 14’ boards and surf skis. This was a two loop course around an island with many coves, all left hand turns. With each island circumnavigation there were sections of easy flat, open in your face wind, side chop, island bounce back, and of course…speedboat, jet ski, pontoon and fishing boat wake. It wasn’t easy and it was not what I expected from a lake paddle.

I was out there longer than my faster counterparts and the conditions definitely deteriorated on the second loop. I had kids on the island shore yelling at me that I was last (ha-ha, thanks boys) and I had the police patrol boat passing my several times to make sure I was ok, throwing up more wake than any other water craft (again, ha-ha, thanks boys.) Where does “schooling” come in? During the second loop there was a section of water that was rough enough; it crossed my mind “this is out of my skill level.” But it quickly dawned on me, “skill level” was a relative term and there was no way out but to keep paddling. There was no rescue boat and I was too far from shore and even then what would I do; sit there, cry, and admit I failed? Uh….nope! So, as Kate taught me, I kept my paddle in the water (dig, brace, dig, brace, dig, dig, dig) and just tried to relax with all the bouncy sh*t that was being thrown at me and paddle on. Simple concepts, big impact on getting through the race. I got my clock cleaned but I did good! At one point I actually surfed something from somewhere and used my paddle to skim the side of the wave (yes, wave) and then just kept on going. I did not fall in, Kate would have been proud!


What Did I Learn at School?

By going to races different from my home training turf, I’m learning new skills and gaining a new confidence. I’ve done 8, 10 and more miles in training, but I’ve never done an 8 mile race, I needed to learn how to pace myself for that distance. I learned that I really need to stop using the term “skill level”, because after Saturday, its more about “confidence level” and my willingness to fall in, flip off, get freaking scared, or even be last. I’ve learned that after a few years of paddling that I can still go to “real” school with an instructor like Kate Lewis, and if I’m willing to absorb even the simplest of concepts, they can and will make a big difference. That paddling and getting better at paddling is more about confidence and being willing to acknowledge that I’m not “done” and will never be. I plan on participating in many more of the clinics by Kate and going to many more races. Being last means I also got to hear the Osprey when others didn’t! It was just me and nature….and speedboats! I also learned a difficult race equals a HUGE appetite, I think I ate my way through Bojangles as a chain as I drove home from South Carolina, I could not eat enough!


What About You?

So what has been your getting your clock cleaned moment? When have you gotten schooled? What did you learn? Did you put it into play? Do you play it safe or scary? Are you done yet?


Side Note on Stand Up Outfitters

Kate and her husband, Charley Lewis, met through surfing and have surfed together all over the world. They opened the doors of Stand Up Outfitters in New Bern, North Carolina in March of 2011. Paddling is a family passion for them with everyone, including their two daughters, instructing and competing. They live, sleep, and breath SUP. They believe that SUP can change the way people of all ages look at limitations and life (I agree!) Kate is an ACA level 1 and level 2 Instructor, a SIC MAUI Ambassador, and races regularly in the elite divisions (she just finished the Carolina Graveyard course.) They host the WPA certified Colonia Sup race in New Bern in August, with recreational, elite and children’s races. They’ve started the North Carolina chapter of the Junior Waterman’s Club. Every year their business is growing with more boards, more paddles, events, apparel, and instructional programs. They have a passion for this sport and they are sharing by living it, good people.  www.StandUpOutfitters.com

Julia Nicholls gets an official column name!