Paddleboarding Experience and Technique

Every session is different

Carroll tailors his lessons according to how well the class is doing. "Typically you can do ten minutes of instruction, get in the water and then they'll get it and you can kind of tweak it from there." And sometimes it doesn't go quite according to that particular plan.

"I had a 68-year-old woman and it took the full two hours to get her to her feet. But she loved it so much when she got up that she's booked a lesson every Wednesday for the next three weeks. She was a triathlete, runs a lot, swims a lot, but she has a shoulder and a hip issue, and this is so low impact."

She was the first person who really "took a ton of work to get her up and paddling," and he's also had students at the other end of the spectrum. "A gentleman took a lesson last week, an ex-military, scary-looking guy. We covered maybe four to five miles in our lesson. That was the most I'd ever done. We paddled into a 20-knot southwest wind going up the channel and he was an absolute machine."

Most students fall somewhere between those two polar opposites, but still at varying degrees of physical ability and confidence level. In most cases he gets them up on their boards and out on the water, and after they've relaxed a bit he tells them to jump off their boards.

"That's the worst thing that can happen to you today is falling off your board. The water out here right now is between 72 and 80 degrees. It's gorgeous. I can't wait to get in it."

But people get that panic-stricken look on their faces and need some reassurance.

"I have to tell them that this is okay. You're attached to your board with your leash. Stay calm and climb back on it. Once we get over that it's easy from there."

Like a bicycle the board is not stable unless it is moving forward, and those who lack confidence tend to freeze up when they get wobbly. "As soon as you freeze you lose that forward momentum. So people who have just a tad more confidence and keep paddling never fall."

If it seems to be a little tough on the group he doesn't take it very far. "If they pick it up quickly we can go on a big tour. We can do a lap around that island, go under this bridge and come around. It all depends on how the first hour goes."

The ups and downs

Typically the people who have done it before have picked up bad habits, and one sight that is beautiful for Carroll's eyes to behold is a registration form claiming no prior paddleboarding experience.

"My favorite is when I see that they've never tried it before. They're just a clean slate and I can teach them my way." People who have previously struck off on their own might tend to hold the paddle wrong or stand wrong. They might hunch over too much, and in many cases they have experienced multiple sensations of pain almost immediately.

"A lot of people who have done it in the past say I liked it but my back hurt within five minutes. I'll say you're standing wrong, you're bending over too much, or pulling on the paddle instead of pushing with your top hand."

One common mistake is to strike a surfer's stance, one foot in front of the other. "They think you're supposed to stand like you're surfing, but you need to stand with feet parallel. You name it, I've seen it."

Another misconception is that they need to come to a full stop before executing a turn, like they're operating a vehicle in a busy intersection. Here again, he emphasizes the absolute need for maintaining forward momentum. The doctrine he preaches is a mix of conquering your fears and being guided by your own common sense.

"You're standing on the board with your feet under your shoulders. You're not just pulling the paddle through the water; you're pushing with one hand and pulling with one hand. So you're twisting. You do two or three paddles on one side and then switch hands and do the same over here as you're trying to balance yourself."

That pure act of twisting in tandem with balancing is what gives you the workout. "So at the end of the day your whole core absolutely burns, from the neck down. You definitely feel it the next day. There's a big difference between going out and cruising nice and slow versus going out and really trying to maintain speed. A minute of going hard will absolutely have you winded."

That kind of hurt is the good kind, and it's only one of several reasons he loves teaching paddleboard lessons. "It's awesome because out of the whole summer there are only a few days that aren't great for it, as opposed to surfing where you have to worry about the waves, the wind, the tide, the weather and lightning."

Because the classes are held during early morning hours, most thunder storms haven't yet had a chance to kick up. "The wind doesn't start blowing until 10 a.m., so pretty much you're guaranteed to get your lesson. With surfing you could have a windy week and you'll have to cancel all your lessons."

And unlike surfing, the whole family turns out for paddleboarding—moms, dads, kids, grandparents. "I really love surfing but paddleboarding is a little slower-paced and less weather-related."

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Paddleboarding Experience and Technique

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