Off the Bench and On the Water

By Jenny Block

I had never even seen a standup paddleboad when I signed up for a high-profile, instructional event held in Miami.

It was part of my “Year of Yes.” As a mother approaching her late thirties, I refused to ride the “mom bench” anymore. I rode my first rollercoaster, went snorkeling, rock climbing, urban rappelling, even bobsledding.

But I didn’t want to get too far ahead of myself. For a preliminary SUP crash course before Miami, I headed to White Rock Lake in my hometown of Dallas. The instructions —if you can call them that—went something like this:

“Climb on. Get up on your knees. Paddle out. Stand up. Have at it.”

That’s Texas for you.

I was ready for the crash. But somehow, I didn’t. “I’ve found my sport,” I blurted to my girlfriend immediately upon standing. Yes, I like anything I have an aptitude for. But even as my yoga-doing, always-better, up-for-anything girlfriend was a little wobbly getting up, I stood right up and paddled with ease.

Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t any good. I underestimated the little current and even managed to jam myself up under the bridge I so desperately struggled to avoid. But I loved it.

Of course, my little foray into SUP did next to nothing to prepare me for Miami, aside from blessing me with an extremely false sense of security. As soon as we walked out onto the beach and saw the ocean, I knew this was a whole different game. Enter waves.

Noelle Kozak, the founder of SUPCore, gave plenty more instruction on land than I ever got in Texas. I still fibbed and said I’d never SUPed before, wanting to be treated like the rock-bottom beginner that I was.

Once we hit the water, I paddled furiously but I just couldn’t get past the break. I’m sure it was only minutes, but after what felt like hours and I eventually couldn’t give any more. The ocean was too much.

I’d been there before. As a kid, I was the one left behind, keeping score and holding coats to help me endure the picking of the teams and the pleas of, “Come on, go with us” when the group ran off to the rollercoaster.

After getting bucked off the South Beach rollercoaster of repeat waves I made my way for shore, feeling despondent. I was right back to my childhood, hearing the groans and sighs of the students of my gym classes past.

And then, straight out of some rerun romantic comedy, the cutest blue-eyed surfer boy appeared out of nowhere.

“Hey. What’s up?” he says. “I’m Trevor, Noelle’s boyfriend. Where are you going?”

“Back in. I can’t do this.”

“Of course you can,” he said. “Let’s go.”

He pushed me out past the break and then stuck around, talking me through every wave and helping me back on the board. Over and over and over.

“You’re doing great,” he said even after I lost my sunglasses—and nearly my top.

When I finally hit the beach, exhausted, I realized how I didn’t let the waves get the best of me. For that, I will be forever grateful to my handsome instructor. If he hadn’t appeared out of the surf, I would’ve never gotten on a board again.

I left feeling like a rock star. I can’t think of another activity where you get that feeling right from the start. It’s hard not to love a sport like that.

Since then the sport’s taken me across the calm, morning ocean in Palau, the canals of the Outer Banks, North Carolina and the mangrove-lined Jupiter Inlet in Florida. I even have my own board back in Dallas. The Year of Yes has been extended. Indefinitely.

For more first-time stoke check out our Beginner’s Guide, on newsstands and iTunes now. And for more tips and tricks check out our How to SUP page.

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  • canadian mom

    Brand new at this sport. First time loved it. Thanks for the inspiration that i’m not the only mom out there trying brand new things. In Canadian Mountains water sports are slightly different but loving it.

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