Sunday, 9 April 2017

From housewife to SUP teacher

When we first moved to Whitstable I knew I wanted to spend time out on the sea. I just wasn’t sure how I wanted to do that! The children were all grown up and I had time on my hands. I had sailed a little when I was young, water-skied, swam a bit, quite fancied windsurfing or kite-surfing - so many options!

The first thing I tried was a sailing lesson at the local sailing school. Jason was very, very patient with me because it was, to say the least, a disaster! There’s so much to think about: a jib sheet, boom, cleats, a rudder etc. etc. Ok, to be fair it wasn’t perfect conditions. It was very cold and very windy.

I spent a lot of time hunkered down in the middle of the boat terrified of the boom which seemed out to get me at every opportunity.

For the next three days I could hardly walk and it was utterly apparent that sailing is great for so very many people but absolutely not for me.

A friend had given me a yoga magazine and in it there was an article about SUP yoga. I loved the look of it and really wanted to have a go. A few days later I found out that my yoga teacher had done a course. I asked her for a lesson.

I was hooked.

I bought an RRD 12’ x 34” board. It arrived and I was so excited to take it on the water. I had no idea what I was doing and there were no instructions. I inflated it and put the fin in. Unfortunately I put the fin in incorrectly - I hadn’t locked it in with the pin and the minute I put it on the shingle, in the water, the fin sheered at its fixture point.

The wait for a new fin was agony. But eventually a new one arrived and I was out on the water. I felt like Pocahontas. I’d go out in all weathers and felt absolutely at home. I wanted to teach others how to do this - get them out on the water and share this amazing thing with everyone. I even taught Elmo to ride!

I rang the ASI (Association of Surfing Instructors) and told them I wanted to teach.

“How long have you be paddle boarding?”
“About two months”
“Ah, right. Um, have you ever had a lesson?”
“No, but I’ve watched lots of videos…”
“Right. What’s the furthest distance you’ve paddled?”
“I don’t know, maybe two miles?”
“Right, well you need to have paddled 10 Km before you can teach. And I suggest you have some lessons…”

I felt a bit of an idiot but it spurred me into action and for the next couple of years I tried to do as many different SUP things as possible. I swapped my RRD board for a Red Paddle Co 12'6. I had  lessons with different teachers and joined the Blue Chip SUPer Club. Every Wednesday night I’d drive to London and paddle (often in the dark) on the Thames. I went to Portugal and did a Learn to SUP course with SUPxscape. And I paddled in Whitstable. As much as possible, in all weathers.

And then I heard that there was an ASI teacher training course coming to Whitstable. It was what I’d waited for all these years. The hardest part was the mini triathlon - a 200m run, swim and prone paddle in under 10 minutes. I knew that I’d find the whole course hard. I’m not great under that kind of observational pressure, I was the oldest on the course (by far!) and I couldn’t swim very well. I failed.

For the next six weeks I ran, swam, swam, swam and prone paddled. And then I passed.

And now I am a teacher. I've swapped my three Red boards for six Mcconks 

a lovely, and affordable, new brand. I absolutely love being able to help people feel confident on the water. I love it that age is no barrier in the world of SUP - in fact it's great for the older generation as it is an excellent way to get flexible, get stronger and get out there.  I still train as much as possible and attend as many courses as I can and. If you've never tried it - come and have a go. If you're already a paddler then maybe I'll see you on the water!