Stand up paddle boarding’s easy right? Simply jump aboard, begin stroking, and after a few initial stumbles you’ll be propelled forwards with smiles all round. Fast forward a few sessions and by this time you’ll have (hopefully) developed a bit of technique, not be stumbling quite as much and generally enjoying your fun in the sun. But what next?
Look at any high performance SUP athlete and their accomplishments will seem a million miles away from the type of paddling you do. Battling ocean swells to gain serious downwind glides, taking a few heavy waves on the head to eventually snag that one awesome barrel or toughing it out across ultra-distance courses for a shot at the podium. All this just looks hard work at the start of your stand up paddle boarding journey, and in fact, never gets any easier. But it’s the reward post-paddling that counts, not how easy the activity was.
Back to your everyday recreational paddling and this is what can be referred to as ‘tier one fun’. Fulfilment comes quickly, with minimal input on your part. That’s not to say there isn’t any effort, quite the opposite in fact. (We’ve all heard about the health benefits of being atop a SUP so we won’t get into this again). By and large, recreational SUP errs towards the easier end of the spectrum. And there’s no real need to change this unless you’re searching for more…
SUP’s popularity is tangible but after a brief spell paddlers may begin seeking their next challenge – this is typical human nature. In its simplest form, as Robby Naish is quoted, ‘SUP is just standing on a board with a paddle’. The rest is down to us as riders and the environments/situations we choose to put ourselves in. Enter ‘tier two fun’ stand up style.
Picture the scene. The wind’s come up, you’re quite a distance from that original launch point, there’s no get out within your immediate vicinity so the only course of action is to hammer down and fight back upwind. As anyone who’s paddled into gusty conditions will tell you, this isn’t the most idyllic kind of SUP you can do, and is actually pretty relentless hard work. Yet with determination, grunt and a positive mental attitude (combined with a degree of technique) there’s no reason why you can’t cover ground and arrive back at point A. Sweaty, tired, and a few pounds lighter.
Hitting the beach in a sweaty dishevelled mess you’ll initially be thankful of touching down upon Terra Firma. But soon enough those positive endorphins will make their way to your brain and in no time you’ll be stoked off your noggin – and an achievement it is. This is ‘tier two fun’: not particularly pleasant during the act but upon reflection super rewarding and addictive. It’s why endurance paddlers keep going back for more, surfers refuse to let a big set get in their way and conquering the elements – if only for a brief period – makes you feel truly alive. Retrospective bliss if you will.
There are plenty of ways to up the ante with your SUP activities and feel the benefits of ‘tier two fun’. Enter a race, step it up in surf, tackle a more challenging route you’ve never before paddled, head out in breezy conditions or whatever you fancy having a stab at.
Self-belief, confidence, experience and skill will play their part in your success – we’re not suggesting you head for the gnarliest conditions you can find with limited paddling ability. A ‘slowly, slowly’ approach is optimum, otherwise you’re heading into ‘tier three fun’ realms which usually results in the emergency services being called!