It probably wasn't very nice of me, but I've been wishing and hoping for rain, winds out of the southeast, and cooler temperatures for most of the summer. Why? Mostly because of the horrible lake conditions in Burtis Bay. The rain breaks up the algae, the southeasterly wind blows debris away from my shoreline, and the cooler temps slow down the algae re-growth. All this wishing and hoping, just so I could play with my newest water toy - a paddle board.
Stand up paddle boards, or SUPs, are so much fun. But sometimes it amazes me how little I really know about things. Here I am, thinking that SUPs are something new, only to find out they've been around since 1926. I guess news travels slowly from Hawaii to Jamestown.
Evidently, this surfing legend named Thomas Edward Blake (19021994) came up with the idea of a "hollowed-out" surfing craft while restoring historic Hawaiian surf boards. Out of redwood, he made a replica of an "olo" surfboard, which was used by Hawaiian kings. Then, he drilled hundreds of holes in the board and covered it with a veneer. The result? "A big hollow surfing craft that was simpler to paddle, picked up the waves easily, but was difficult to turn." (Gault, Malcom. Legendary Surfers).
Beka makes hula-hooping on the paddle board look easy.
Blake won tons of surfing competitions with his board, and the basic principles of his 1926 design are still important today. Thomas, who also worked as a life guard, was proud that his boards were widely used by other life guards, and they have been credited with saving thousands of lives.
My interest in SUPs began on Chautauqua Lake. Last summer, I had watched a few people use one near my house. Then, in Florida, I paid special attention to boarders riding the waves in the waters in the Gulf of Mexico. Growing up during the 50s and 60s, I had been brain-washed with the ultimate "coolness" of west-coast surfing. I never answered the call, although the urge is still there. So, I thought, at my age, paddle boarding might be the answer to this dream. Although I was not sure I could use an SUP, I visited Ready About Sailing in Celoron to see if I could try out a board. They let me, and I was hooked.
My board is around 11-feet long but weighs very little. There is special carpeting on the top so you know where to stand to be balanced on the board, and you use one long paddle, which is adjustable. During my initial ride, I was very nervous about falling in, mainly because the lake was still pretty chilly. My knees were locked, and my legs were rigid. I was doing everything you shouldn't do, but I managed to stay upright. After I finally bought my own board, the lake had warmed up, so I wasn't so worried about falling in. Since then, needless to say, I have ended up in the lake several times while trying to figure things out, but it is easy to pull yourself back up on the board.
Of course, I wanted all my family and friends to try out my SUP too. Most of them did much better than I did. My neighbor wore his hat and street clothes the first time and came back dry, thumbing his nose at me. His daughter-in-law practiced yoga on it, too. But the kids were the most amazing of all. They took to the SUP like seals sliding down icebergs. My little niece, Beka, even showed off by hula-hooping on the board. Her brother, Si, acted like he had been born on one. This definitely is a toy everyone in the family can enjoy.
I'm sure you will see more SUPs on Chautauqua in the future. And, if you are interested, there are online lessons at www.c4waterman.com. Now, if you will excuse me, it rained last night, the temperature has been cooler and there is a southeasterly breeze. My wishing and hoping is paying off. See you on the water.
Susan M. Songster-Weaver is retired teacher, nature lover and longtime CWC volunteer and supporter. The Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy is a local nonprofit organization that is dedicated to preserving and enhancing the water quality, scenic beauty, and ecological health of the lakes, streams, wetlands and watersheds of the Chautauqua region. For more information, visit www.chautauquawatershed.org or call 664-2166.