Winter Issue Editor’s Letter: Your Personal Frontier

Downwinding on Loch Ness, Scotland. Photo: Aaron Black-Schmidt
Downwinding on Loch Ness, Scotland. Photo: Aaron Black-Schmidt

Winter Issue Editor’s Letter: Your Personal Frontier

Originally published in our Winter “Frontier” Issue, on sale today.

The wind slid through the zippers of our coats and the weave of our pants, robbing our bodies of warmth. We looked over the coffee-brown expanse of the infamous Loch Ness, the damp gusts creating perfectly groomed, organized downwind lines across the eerie water's surface. I looked at our two Scottish hosts, Mitch Bechard and his sister-in-law Terri Bryce. They were skeptical of their SUP skills in such conditions and that afternoon, in the mission itself.

Whether you believe in the Loch Ness monster or not—I personally don't deny the possibility—it's hard not to think about a prehistoric monster rising from the frigid depths and snatching a standup paddler from the glide of their life. And no matter what our crew believed in, there was no question: we were in Scotland to explore standup paddling and we could not turn down an opportunity as unique as downwinding on Loch Ness. Not for Nessie, not for the rain squalls moving through and not for the icy peat-colored water.

For myself, Terri and Mitch, the day was a chance to push our personal frontiers. They had the chance to learn and downwind on their country's most famous body of water while I had the chance to experience something totally unique.

Since this magazine started, we've made a point to go to those frontiers, both personal and otherwise. Our staff has pioneered downwind runs in Mexico, standup surfed point breaks in Iceland, raced all over the world and paddled from Guatemala to Belize. Not just for our own personal experiences but because we want to inspire you, our readers, to get out there and push your boundaries too. That's what this, our Frontier Issue, is all about.

That day in Scotland, we ate some haggis, put back some whisky for fortitude, then paddled out on water so cold that it gives me chicken skin even as I write about it now.

Despite their earlier doubts, Terri and Mitch did great. We caught bumps, hooted, got mild hypothermia and managed to avoid Nessie.

Were we the first people to paddle SUPs on Loch Ness? Surely not. Were we the first to downwind SUP there? Quite possibly. Do those things even matter? Not really.

The only frontiers that really matter are your own. Regardless of the level you're at in the sport, SUP gives each and every person that grabs a paddle the chance to explore their own frontiers. Guys like South African Thomas King are riding waves on SUPs that were previously thought un-rideable on the craft (check out p. 40). Novice paddlers like author Morgan Tilton are pulling off river SUP first descents (p. 60). And esteemed gentlemen such as underground surf legend Bill Boyum are as tenacious as ever thanks to discovering the sport (p. 38).

When I left Scotland, it wasn't the SUP feats we accomplished that stayed with me. It was the fact that I'd had a beyond-unique experience with great people in a foreign land. You don't have to push yourself to a true frontier to have a good adventure (although it helps). It's often as simple as paddling out at your local waterway. Whatever your frontier is, enjoy it. There will always be another waiting for you.   —Will Taylor

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