Trying a new-to-you active travel experience is energizing. The empowerment from learning a new skill lasts for days and results in unforgettable travel memories. I’m convinced that it also keeps this boomer thinking young. That’s why I said yes to a stand up paddleboarding lesson offered by Visit Maui during a trip to Hawaii’s Valley Isle.
After an adventuresome week in Maui, I stumble out of bed for one more day filled with exciting pursuits before catching a redeye flight back to the U.S. mainland. Stand up paddleboarding, hiking in a rainforest and a helicopter ride over West Maui and Molokai are on the day’s agenda. One thing’s for sure, I’ll be sleeping well on the flight home.
I’ve always admired people gliding across the water on paddleboards. The experience looks so elegant. Surely it can’t be that hard, I tell myself while pulling on a bathing suit after a 6 a.m. wakeup call. My biggest worry is that there’s no time during the day’s busy schedule for washing and drying my hair. And, since returning home with salty, frizzed-out hair doesn’t appeal to this travel princess, I vow not to fall off the board. Now you know why Alan calls me determined Donna.
From my accommodations at Wailea Beach Villas, provided by Destination Resorts Hawaii, it’s a short drive to a side street near the Fairmont Kea Lani where private instructor, Peg from Paddle On! Maui, waits to introduce me to paddleboarding. I’m relieved to see that Peg is a boomer herself. Although she’s fit and tone, surely Peg will understand this slightly scared boomer woman’s inflexibility and lack of core muscle strength, which is probably a foreign concept to a twenty-something paddleboarding instructor.
We start out with small talk as I help Peg move equipment to the beach. Before getting into the water she instructs me on the paddleboarding basics of where to place my feet, how to come to a standing position and how to fall off—of course I don’t tell Peg that I have no intentions of falling off.
Soon we’re sitting on our boards paddling out into the calm Pacific Ocean. It’s quiet on the water. At first, the air is chilly but as the sun rises, the temperature quickly warms up. I’m supposed to be sitting on my knees on the board but that isn’t working for me due to a pesky disc problem in my back. So I sit cross-legged, as best I can, to practice the short, quick strokes of the paddle.
Hmm, this is sort of nice, maybe I’ll be a sit down paddleboarder.
When Peg thinks I’m ready, she instructs me to stand up. “Keep your body centered and don’t look down,” she says.
And so like a gawky newborn fawn with wobbly knees, I rise to a standing position on the board.
Grinning broadly, I say to no one in particular, “I’m up!” And then my knees and legs begin to violently shake. I manage to stay standing for about a minute before sitting back onto the board. But I didn’t fall off and my hair’s not wet. So far so good.
“Keep your knees stiff next time” Peg suggests.
It seems that soft knees might be good for some sports but not for paddleboarding.
Peg knows a panicked boomer when she sees one. So she stands and I sit as we maneuver over coral reefs through the placid water. We talk—about paddleboarding—about life in Hawaii—about making mid-life changes—and about life in general. If her goal is to relax me, Peg has succeeded.
Soon I’ve regained my nerve to try standing up again. And up I go, standing for a little longer this time, and with less shaking, before lowering myself back onto the board. Good. No falls into the water. No wet hair.
As the sun rises, Peg takes photos of me on the board. Later, as Peg does for all her clients, she’ll email them to me to document the experience.
The sun has warmed the air and there’s a sunrise glow casting pink reflections across the water as Wailea slowly wakes up. Now I really understand the appeal of stand up paddleboarding.
When we take a break, Peg offers fruit and water that she brought with her. The camera and refreshments are laid out on her board. How does she keep them from falling off?
I listen as Peg shares a favorite story about paddleboarding near a mother whale and her calf. Of course paddleboarders have the same distance restrictions that boaters do. But if a mother whale decides to show off her new baby, what can you do but stand still and enjoy the scene?
Peg asks me to try standing up one more time but I decline. By now, my muscles are shaky from fatigue. I’ve learned how to read my boomer body and know when to quit while the experience is still a good one and before injuring myself.
Other paddlers have joined us on the water. We wave and chat as they paddle by. Soon it’s time to head to shore to prepare for my next adventure of the day; however, I’m reluctant to leave the quiet, peacefulness of this special time on the water in Maui. This is one boomer adventure that I’ll be trying again. And, next time, I won’t care if my hair gets wet.
Traveling to Maui and need ideas for things to do? Start with our boomer adventures in Maui page.
Have you tried stand up paddleboarding on Maui or anywhere else? What did you think? Join the conversation at the My Itchy Travel Feet page on Facebook or send us an email to ask a question or share your experience.
Disclosure: Visit Maui provided this travel experience. As always, the opinions are my own.
All photos courtesy Peg at Paddle On! Maui.