A New Relationship Status
The investment we have in paddle boarding is not just financial. From the start, when we choose our first board, it becomes personal and almost “intimate”. SUP gear, especially boards, are expensive. We end up falling in love, in lust or unfortunately sometimes full on hate with our first board. They reflect who we are, what we love, show to the world and aspire to be. Buying our first board means we’re making a “commitment.” It means we WILL start prioritizing our time, watching the weather, the tides and boat traffic at our put-in point; all so we can “water-up” and go feed our souls with this new sport. Buying our first board means WE ARE NOW a SUP STUD DUDE (or Dudette)! It’s like posting a relationship status on Facebook! We ARE paddle boarders when we buy our first board!
Throw Back to Our First Board
A recent 100/100 Paddle Challenge poll showed an almost equal split of loving, lusting, or “disliking” our first boards. Some bought their first board online sight unseen with no idea how big the sport of SUP would become or how addicted they’d become to it. My first board was custom made by a local surfer and was an odd 10’7” and 26” wide. I could barely stand without rolling off. It was heavy as a semi-truck and had no handle. I hated that board, but it helped me love paddling. My first race board was a Hobie Elite, then a Bark Competitor leading to my current boards, a 12’6” Bark Contender and Commander. I sold the all-arounder that smacked me in the mouth when I let it go in the surf. I will take no abuse from any board (even if it was my fault). I sold it CHEAP, just to let it know who was boss. Mark and Mercedes Baird built their first “woodie”, a tandem board that they paddled in the 2012 Carolina Cup. Maggie Adams first SUP was a 11’6”x30” Boga El Tiburon. She won her first race on in, still has it, and takes it out to cruise the ocean. The dynamic duo of Joel and Coli Yang, started their tandem adventures with the Orange Manaia, an Imagine Crossover 11’x32”. They keep it around for taking beginners out. Eric Rowe’s first board was a Mike Dolsey Designs all-around. His first RACE board is a 14’ 404 Zeedonk. He doesn’t want to step on anything else because he doesn’t want to cheat and find out the Zeedonk isn’t the fastest, sleekest, water glider that he thinks she is. Did I say it becomes personal with our gear? Laura Jane Brougher’s first board was an inflatable FROM COSTCO! Then she bought a Starboard race board, then a Bark 14’ Dominator. Heather Frogge’s first race board “WAS THE WORST BOARD EVER!” Two great examples of it’s all about getting started and moving on.
Do We Name Them? Are They Clean & Shiny or Down & Dirty?
An awful lot of us name our boards, especially our first. There are college team mascots, Viking Gods, well-loved dogs, colors, euphemisms and Star War characters. There’s Big Red, Sam, Thor, The Drunken Otter, and Darth Vadar. It’s obvious; all our boards have souls, but especially our first. They bear our burdens out to sea, speed us down the river, wash away our sad memories in channel crossings, make us feel like mermaids, and encourage us to visualize a sprint to the finish against Danny Ching or Jack Bark. They have attitudes we appreciate; with colors that are loud and aggressive or gentle and caressing like some of the custom creations by Fennel Blythe out of Tennessee. If we love our boards, we keep them clean and shiny and free from destruction. Yet on the flipside, if we use them as we should, they are often beasts of burden and show our hard work with battle scar scuffs and dock nail dings. IT IS PERSONAL.
Wide and Stable or Fast and Sleek
Gail Kotowski had a 12’ x 30” Starboard Big Easy. That’s a BIG board. She was going to sell it but her son asked her not too…he loves it! Janet Halseth Perry bought a Bark Dominator 14’ and loves it so much she’s never bought anything else (yet). Katie Elzer-Peters first board was a Starboard Whopper that I think she bought used from John Beausang. Terri Durbin bought a “Body Glove Glide” that is 12’ x 36” and 65 pounds! It’s a floating dock! She weighs 110 pounds. Hah! Nicholle Lochary also bought a Starboard Whopper at 12’ x 36” and keeps it around to teach beginners. Seems a lot of us want to share our love and our toys. Daniel Davis paid $900 for a Lahui Kai Orca in 2012 and “she’s” still his favorite race board. Michelle Wood’s first board (and her current board) was a BIC 10’6” wahine platinum (champagne not white). Barrett Hoard bought a Jimmy Lewis Slice 12’6” x 30”, red and white. Lisa Browning’s first board was a 10’2” Fanatic Fly (Annie Harper bought a 11’ Fanatic Fly), moved up to a Tahoe and now flies happily with either a Bark Contender or goes prone on her Bark Commander.
It doesn’t matter what we start with, it matters that we started and that we keep going. We stay in love; we stay in lust and dump those that aren’t good to us. It can be a standup, prone, race, touring, all arounder, or inflatable board. It IS personal and it starts our love affair with paddling.