I am a land-loving cyclist, for the most part. But through the years, I have enjoyed a variety of water sports, including surfing (long boarding), ocean swimming, and even river boarding (outside Seattle – brrrr!). Plus, I have kayaked and canoed many times! Finally, this fall, I got to sample stand-up paddle boarding, better known as SUP, or just paddle boarding, thanks to my friend here in Santa Cruz, Max Montgomery.
Here I am: virgin paddleboarder at Natural Bridges State Park in Santa Cruz on a sunny Saturday in September. Max Montgomery generously volunteered to be my instructor and loan me his paddle board. It’s so big, it;s like a small boat. Yet, I was still a bit wobbly standing on it even in flat surf conditions.
Max and I drove to the beach and hauled two big, heavy boards down from the parking lot to the surf. Actually there was no “surf,” the ocean, which is technically, the Monterey Bay here in Santa Cruz, was smooth as glass, ideal, flat conditions to venture out into the water for a tranquil paddle. There was a little tiny bit of shore break. Max pointed out that is the most dangerous part; entering and exiting the water with the huge board, so he kindly managed that part for me!
Max provided three excellent pieces of advice for a beginner paddle boarder:
1. Use your knees! The first position to get onto the board after bellyflopping onto it, is to rise to your knees, just kneel on it, before standing up. Then, once standing, be sure to have your knees gently bent, not locked for optimum balance.
2. Momentum is your friend. A gently, steady glide is the best way to maneuver about because it’s much harder to maintain your balance standing up, even on a flat ocean, if you are at a dead stop. So keep on gliding along, using your paddle on alternating sides.
3. Paddle using your core muscle group at the center of your body, not just your arms. This was the hardest part for me! I worked on the concept but will have to try again to get the paddling right so my arms and shoulders are less fatigued.
Max Montgomery has been a surfer for 30+ plus years and is a world-traveled Santa Cruzer. He says that he also loves stand-up paddle boarding because it’s a calmer way to appreciate the amazing Monterey Bay!
It’s impossible to mention Max Montgomery without talking about the group he started and passionately maintains: Ride a Wave – Creating Special Days for Kids with Special Needs. I deeply admire Max’s dedication to giving disabled children and adults the chance to experience riding a wave and enjoying the ocean. Check out photos of past events and become a a sponsors at www.rideawave.org.
For more information about stand-up paddle boarding in Santa Cruz, here are a few (of many) options to visit:
1. Covewater – Stand Up Paddleboards, Santa Cruz, owned by Scott and Leslie Ruble
They offer paddle board classes, lessons, rentals, boards and accessories.
2. Neil Pearlberg, the freelance surfing columnist for the Santa Cruz Sentinel, offers private classes on stand-up paddle boarding. Check out his website! He also wrote about how the well-established Santa Cruz company Caution Kites is manufacturing paddle boards in addition to their signature wind and kite surfing boards.
3. Inflate your SUP!