SUP: The Challenging Sport With The Chillest Name

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page_vertical_paddleboardPhoto: Via Dr. Laura Ruof.
The first time I tried paddleboarding was a few years ago in Spring Lake, New Jersey. The sea was angry that day, my friends, and the entire thing turned out to be a disaster. Some sizable waves were coming in, but my athletic nature gave me confidence that I wouldn’t have a problem standing up and paddling my way out to sea. Jonah, my fiancé and an accomplished surfer, was attempting to show me what to do as one wave after another pushed me farther back towards the beach (where, of course, all my friends were watching).

Every time I managed to get into the water, Jonah said “Stand UP!” I tried to stand up, a wave came in, and I fell off and was swept back to shore. As the tide came in my frustration grew, and I learned two important lessons. One, never, ever get into a situation where your partner is teaching you how to do anything, unless the two of you want to end up yelling at each other in public. Get a knowledgeable friend or actual teacher if you need instruction — you’ll be more polite to each other. Two, the ocean is a great equalizer. If you go in overly confident, she will quickly make you her bitch. Angry, bruised, and embarrassed, I dragged my paddleboard back to shore, and growled under my breath that I would never paddleboard EVER again.

That incident hung over me for years. Every time I saw a person on a board I was reminded of "The Thing I Couldn’t Do." There was an offer to paddle while I was in Santa Barbara, but that scenario conjured up dark thoughts of hungry sharks — and I need my arms to do dentistry. My brother and his wife wanted to go paddleboarding in Boston, but I turned them down and suggested we hit a street fair (ugh). It was at this particular low that I realized I could no longer run from my fear. After all, eating street meat in the blistering sun is no way for a girl to spend her summer.

I found a guy who rents boards in the Hudson River and an offshoot called Roundout Creek. I grabbed my gear (we’ll go over that later, very important) and committed to figuring this thing out. I decided to go in Roundout first because the Hudson can have a bit of a current. I knew if this didn’t go well, paddleboarding would officially be dead to me. So, I figured, the calmer the water the better. The rest of the story is actually pretty boring because, well, it was easy. We paddled up the creek for about two hours to a small waterfall, had a snack, and paddled back. I waved to some boaters. I didn’t see any sharks, and I didn’t fall off once. Clearly, the first time, I was doing it wrong. So allow me to show you how to do it right and look good doing it.

Paddleboarding, or stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) is an increasingly popular sport in the U.S. Laird Hamilton, pro-surfer and husband to Gabby Reece, is a big proponent of SUP and has been a key force in its growing popularity. All paddleboards are different. If you’re just looking to paddle around and stay standing, you'll need a more “floaty” board. That means it’s more buoyant and less mobile, giving you more stability. People actually surf on SUP boards sometimes, but floaty boards aren’t good for that. Don’t actually try to surf a wave on a paddleboard the first time unless you’re some kind of surf protégé, in which case we can’t hang out, sorry.

A board will run you anywhere from $600-$1500, so renting might make more sense for you. Renting generally costs anywhere from $50-$100 for the day, depending on your location. If you're in New York, there's a company that will take you out in the Hudson near Chelsea Piers called Manhattan Kayak Company. Paddleboarding around Manhattan is extremely cool, but there is a current and the water can be choppy, so you might want to wait until you’ve had some experience before heading out to rougher waters. Experience will also help you to stay on the board, which is extra-important here because the rule of the Hudson around Manhattan is “If you fall in, keep your mouth closed.” Not kidding.

Now that you have the where and how down, I’ll give you the what (to wear, obvs!).

You’ll need:

A Good Beach Bag

You got to have this to carry your bikini, change of clothes, and snacks. I love to bring my Fresco Towels blue aztec terry bag on board with me to hold my Lara Bars and water. Ask the person renting you the board if they have a dry bag you can use. This is a small waterproof bag you can take on the board with you. How else will you get all those Instagram shots proving how casually sporty you are?

A Comfortable Bikini
I wear a Faherty Brand bikini — the fit is incredible. I don’t have to worry about flashing the locals if I fall in, and I’m busy paddling, so tugging at my suit bottom is not an option.

A Rashguard or "Rashy"
A rashy is a shirt, usually made from swimsuit material, that has built-in SPF (usually around 50). Surfers wear them to decrease their sun exposure, so you’ll look legit. You’ll be able to paddle longer because the sun won’t wear you out as fast, plus you won’t have to worry about sunburn on your arms, chest, and back. Read: less cleavage wrinkles. J.Crew makes really cute rashies — I especially love the ones made from Liberty prints. When you aren’t paddleboarding, your rashy is perfect for any time you’re in the sun, or if you want to cover up by the pool without the wet T-shirt effect.

Sunscreen, Duh!
I use Neutrogena spray on my legs (the rest of me is covered by my rashy!). It’s easy to apply and doesn’t make me break out. On my face I use Peter Thomas Roth Max Sheer All Day Moisture Defense Lotion. Long name, excellent coverage.

Sunglasses
One word: glare.

Now you’ve got your gear, and you know where to go, you’re ready to get your SUP on. Once you get comfortable on the board you can even find SUP yoga classes, a true challenge to your previously-mastered tree pose. Let my story be a cautionary tale, the ocean is a fierce adversary — rivers, creeks, and lakes are much more friendly for your first go-around. Don’t forget the most important part, photographic evidence of how well you did. There’s still a lot of SUP season left, so tweet me your photos, and make me proud!