A Short List of Why We Paddle
The last few weeks of the year always seem to invoke reflection. As we close out 2017 it has been another exciting growth year for surfski around the world. I love the sport so much and get so much from it, that I remain forever optimistic that over time the rest of the world will catch on. The explosion of new boat designs and accessibility combined with amazing races and beautiful surfski destinations is certain to result in continued momentum.
For those already bitten by the surfski bug, this blog will help to reaffirm your life choices and may even explain a few things you didn’t realize. This is all good, but my real hope is that you share this with those not yet paddling a surfski, and convince a few close friends to join you on the water.
1. A Path to Mastery is Essential to Lasting Fulfillment
I recently finished a very short read by George Leonard titled Mastery. The book was written over two decades ago, but is more timely now than ever. There is no doubt that if we don’t make a conscious effort to chart a different course, we will get sucked into a world of immediate expectation, attention deficit disorder, and the constant disappointment that comes with it. A key fundamental in George’s book is learning to endure the plateau and stick with it and attitude and approach that is increasingly rare to find in today’s world. This is unfortunate as there is so much science to prove that it is the journey and not the results that produce true and lasting happiness.
As anyone who has ever sat in a surfski will tell you, surfski paddling is most definitely a journey and a long game. This is exactly the beauty of the sport. The dimensions are multiple and the learning on each dimension endless. And based on several factors listed below, it is available to anyone.
If you aren’t currently engaged on at least one if not three or four paths to mastery, I highly recommend this timeless and short read to inspire and motivate you.
2. The Most Versatile Watercraft
Call me biased, but I believe the surfski is the most versatile watercraft on the market, not to mention the fastest. You can paddle it on rivers, lakes, or oceans. In flat water, chop, big ocean sell and everything in between. You can easily go upwind or downwind, and surf wind waves, ocean swell, shore break, and boat wakes. You can cover long distance or go for short paddles. You can cruise at a casual conversational pace or redline your heart rate. The possibilities are endless.
It is worth expanding a little bit on the ability to go upwind, because this is what truly differentiates the surfski from a Stand Up Paddle Board. Wherever you can find an on-shore wind, with a surfski you can paddle out and surf in. This is really not feasible in an SUP. Additionally if you are exploring and spending the larger part of the day on the water, in the surfski you don’t have to be so concerned about wind picking up and creating a situation where you have to cover a lot of ground against the wind.
As compared to traditional surfing, the magic of the surfski is that we can surf waves from 1 foot to 12 foot. These conditions are common in most bodies of water, but true surfing conditions are much harder to find and often involve battling a line up.
3. Water Benefits the Brain
While the conclusive science is still very fresh, we all intuitively know that water has a magical effect on the brain. If it didn’t people wouldn’t pay so much money to vacation on the beaches and buy homes with waterfront views. The book Blue Mind is one of the first to delve into the neural science of what spending time on the water does for our brains. It is definitely worth checking out.
It is widely recognized and accepted that surfers are experiencing “Zen” moments. A surfski paddler surfing waves is experiencing every bit as much “zen” as a surfer and on a good downwind run the surfing is endless with no line ups to contend with.
4. Safety First
It is unfortunate that much of the general public views the surfski as a narrow and tippy kayak that is unsafe for all but the most skilled paddlers. Nothing could be further from the truth. A V5 or V8 in the hands of a trained and equipped paddler is far safer than the millions of “bathtub like” recreational kayaks on the market. The ability to capsize and easily remount a surfski combined with self bailing, makes it considerably safer than any closed cockpit kayak paddled by anyone without a bulletproof Eskimo Roll (the vast majority)
While it should always be a given that you should dress for the water temperatures, an open cockpit craft ensures you are more likely to do so, which ultimately keeps you safer.
5. A Super Hero Physique
Proper surfski paddling is about developing the core, obliques, lats, shoulders, and arms. In roughly that order. The elite paddlers clearly demonstrate that with enough time in the surfski you are certain to achieve the much desired v shape torso. Most importantly building a strong core in the way that the surfski does, will pay dividends in overall health and mobility and will translate to resiliency in everyday life.
Surfski paddling to build upper body endurance strength is a perfect compliment to running and biking and one of the very best summer cross training activities for nordic skiers.
6. Low Impact Equals Healthy Longevity
If there was ever a low impact and low injury sport, that would be surfski. With some basic instruction on technique and learning to protect your shoulders, you can easily enjoy a very long surfski paddling career well into your eighties. Falling off a surfski beats falling on a bike any day.
7. Surfski Destinations are Incredible
Surfski races and events are in the most beautiful locations in the world. Think Hawaii, Tahiti, Columbia River Gorge, Tarifa, France, Sweden, Aukland, Cape Town, Sydney, Perth, Hong Kong, Mauritius, San Francisco Bay, Northern Michigan, Chattanooga, Connecticut, and the list goes on! Wherever there is water, there is, or will soon be, surfski paddling. Wherever there is water and wind, there will be surfski surfing!
8. Anyone Can Do It
This I absolutely believe and have witnessed first hand. Surfski is accessible to everyone. I have witnessed 8 year olds and 70 year olds pick up surfski paddling for the first time and absolutely love it. Man, woman, child, old, young, athletic or non-athletic with the right boat and the right instruction anyone can begin paddling a surfski and soon be catching waves and surfing until their heart’s content.
9. Flow States Greatly Enhance Life
The concept of Flow has been around for many years, the science around it is gaining more attention as we all seek to further heighten our experiences and performance. Surfski offers both a figurative and literal example of Flow on so many levels. It could be paddling on a dead flat inland lake or surfing a wild and crazy ocean in gale force winds. There is hardly a surfski paddler who doesn’t access some level of Flow state on every paddle.
10. An Amazing Tribe
The surfski community stands above the rest for a willingness to welcome newcomers. Many of us paddle alone far too often. The open water swell is a big and uncrowded space and is exponentially more fun to share with others. The most elite in the sport are some of the humblest people I ever met. World class athletes in every respect, who will not hesitate to spend genuine time with absolute beginners. Think about the power of this. It is quite rare.