Is Paddleboarding Stupid, Or Just You?

Just you.

Just me too, until yesterday – but as with most humans living above the Mason-Dixon Line, I’ve evolved. Yesterday I paddleboarded for the first time after years of refusing to touch the foreign craft. I made all of the usual excuses: could be surfing instead, why not surf instead, let’s just surf instead, surfing instead would be optimal, and so on.


Paddleboarding seemed foolish because it was all of the work (paddling) without enjoying any of the benefits (surfing) – sort of like being an anorexic baker. They even advertise it right there in the name: PADDLEboarding. I might have been more enthusiastic about Mochi-ice-cream-boarding or Natalie-Portman-boarding. But paying $2000 to scratch around in still water and never get to your feet always sounded a little off. It means fewer faces in the lineup, though, so what’s the harm? Go wild goofballs.


Hence when my phone buzzed early yesterday morning with an invitation to go for a paddle, it was mostly due to Honolulu’s lack of swell and 30 mph sideshore trade winds that I agreed to sip the punch. Surfing, for once, was an even less attractive endeavor. My host was Mikey Cote, winner of the 2008 Molokai to Oahu race with a time of 5 hours and 48 minutes. He’s in the kind of physical shape normally attributed to African cheetahs. I would be using one of Mikey’s many custom Joe Bark paddleboards – top of the line. All in all the experience was akin to borrowing a Merrick to be pushed into waves by Dane Reynolds.


We pushed off from Cote’s boat ramp and headed west with the wind at our backs for a “short” one-hour leg down the coast. Mikey and his crew of like-minded brawnyboarders think nothing of runs twice this distance (against the current). Even for a mildly capable surfer, though, it was no cakewalk. I fell off twice – while lying down. Mikey’s a bit of a prick, so he goes on his knees and even stands up occasionally just for laughs. Bit of a prick, he.


Despite looking awkward and drafting hundreds of yards behind the others, I had about as much fun as in a good surf session. Paddleboarding with the wind is really more riding than paddling – it’s like proning in on a last wave that never ends. It takes a lot of effort to stay on that wave, but the effect is nothing like a surfing treadmill, or like swimming laps in a pool, as I had imagined it would be. And since paddling is most fun when it’s blown out, there’s no need to choose it over actual surfing. Like Japanese friends, the two go hand in hand.