Is there a posture of athletic masculine technique more erotic than a clean paddle stroke? The drawing back of a bowstring, maybe. Or throwing a javelin. But these acts are all about a short build-up of energy followed by a quick, violent release—hardly the stuff of true masculine heroics. And is there anything more impotent than a baseball swing? At least the typical swing, which, judging by stats, finds the oft-frustrated batter with very little chance of even getting to first base. Football? Okay, while the sight of a bunch of sweaty men huddling up, then bending over and presenting their rumps and tackling each other may be the height of stimulation to a certain percentage of the male population, the gridiron’s posture is generally submissive; any sport that penalizes a backfield in motion can hardly be called sexy.
But paddling is different, especially when done standing up. To begin with, you’re wielding a long shaft. And if you’re wielding it effectively—which in SUP’s case means the classic Tahitian stroke—you’re performing a steady series of “quick, powerful and short strokes through the water, with a minimum of body movement that might upset the delicate balance of the craft, the main power thrust in the first part of the stroke between the knee and the hip.*”
When performed correctly this stroke approximates the classic Greek kouros statue, in which the male ideal is represented in a pose that accentuates broad shoulders and a narrow waist. And like those lusty old Greeks you’re assuming this position pretty much naked all the time, at least if you’re paddling in the tropics. Naked and wet. But even if you’re wearing rubber, the smooth, steady rhythm of the efficient paddle stroke can’t help accentuate a prowess that must almost certainly translate to more terrestrial delights. Consider the following descriptions, translated from the oral history of ancient Hawaii by the late paddling legend John D. Kaupiko, which leave little doubt as to the erotic component of traditional paddling culture (not to mention providing some major inspiration to get your paddle stroke down).
He’ ma’uka uka hoe hewa
An uplander unskilled in wielding the paddle, said of an awkward person who blunders along or of a man who is clumsy in lovemaking.
O ke ku hoe akamai no ia he pi’ipi kai
That is the way of the skilled paddler—the sea does not wash in on the sides.
Said of a deft lover.
*From The Hawaiian Canoe by Tommy Holmes, 1981
Look for Sam George’s new Pure Stroke Column, Stand Up for Sharks, in the Fall 2012 issue of SUP magazine