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Mom’s stand up paddle boarding experience

Recent article in the Florida today
I am the type of woman who loves to accept a worthy, physical challenge.
It started when I was a kid, and figure skating was my fixation. I mastered a single axle, then moved on to the next challenge. I learned how to glide down a mountain, and most importantly how to stop. Several daredevil feats followed, and then my engines cooled for a time.
Soon after, came the kids. Challenges after that involved more than just me, and my body assumed the brunt of carrying two sacks of sugar and spice on my hips. I ended up with arms of steel, but I knew my core could use some strengthening.

Recently, I was talking with friends who tried Stand-Up Paddleboarding, also known as SUP. I knew this was a growing sport given the related businesses popping up along A1A, so I decided to give it a shot. I gave my arms a rest from carrying groceries and small humans and booked my two-hour paddleboard tour of the Indian River Lagoon with Melbourne Beach-based SUP Eco Adventures.
Like many, I wondered if I could stand on the board, let alone move myself on it through the canals. I had some surfing background, but it had been years since I stood on any type of board. Co-host Dina reassured me it was OK to start on my knees until I was comfortable standing and added they never had anyone take a tour and not stand on the board. I was good to go after her pep talk.
Before setting out, we were given detailed instructions. Kneel, then stand when comfortable, was integral. We chose paddles based on height and were shown the correct way to use them. Effortlessly, Dina started her paddle from the launch area and through a push from Fernando on shore, we each headed out.
In no time, I realized the beauty of my surroundings. The sun had emerged and lit the mangroves with enough light for me to see the intricacy of their root systems. Nature was awake within me as I paddled on my knees to the first canal. That feeling of wonderment came, in hindsight, as I had no worries or stresses. I felt re-energized from the daily routine of motherhood, and knew upon my return my kids would be proud to hear of my experience.

I watched the egrets and ibises fly above me, and simply smiled as I paddled behind Dina. She then stood up with no hesitation, and so did I. It took a few minutes for me to calm my sea legs. If you have never stood on a board, it is customary for your legs to wobble slightly until you get your balance. Once my balance was achieved, I had the best vantage point for viewing nature’s beauty. It also was a moment of personal empowerment.
Dina and Fernando pointed out several waterfowl species and areas where manatees and dolphins frequent. About an hour in, we stopped in a shaded area where they provided light snacks and bottled water.
Paddling resumed after our break, and we were given advanced paddling lessons, what the pros do, so to speak. The level of encouragement was high, and I felt able after only two hours to take on more. They told me how they recently went to great lengths to customize their line of boards. In the back of my mind, I thought: “Christmas present for me.”

At the end of the tour, we received the gift of wind, which propelled us back to Honest John’s Fish Camp. Dina promised me I would feel the workout in my core, and she was right. For days afterward, I felt the energy within me, and I can’t wait to have at it again. I plan to bring my 4-year-old with me once I break through the beginner hurdles. The experience reigns as the best workout I have had in years.

Ashley, a Melbourne Beach resident, is a stay-at-home mom with two children, ages 4 and 5.

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