Zen on the water

Thu, 07/16/2015 - 8:45am

There's a water sport that turns exercise into a Zen experience: paddleboarding. Paddleboards resemble surfboards, but come with paddles. They are wider, and have surfaces that help folks get a grip.

Not being a swimmer, paddleboards have never been on my radar. From what I gathered doing a bit of research, although the use of a surfboard with a paddle originated in Hawaii, ancient cultures of Africa and Peru, also used a paddleboard-like means for traversing water.

The Zen water sport reached my radar on June 27. I'd gone down to Tidal Transit to cover the paddleboard race that final day of the Windjammer Days festival. Unfortunately, no one signed up for the event, although several had expressed interest to Travis Journagan, owner and president of the kayak and paddleboard company.

I took it as a sign, an opportunity to find out more about it. Unfamiliarity with the sport being one of the reasons the event lacked participants, according to Journagan.

Journagan said paddleboarding is the fastest growing sport in the United States. He first came across one of the fiberglass variety in 2002 or 2003.

In 2009, he bought a VERSA epoxy board for the business and another five soon after. The VERSA board is a wide board, great for newbies, yoga (we'll get to that later), and for carrying passengers — like children or seafaring canines.

Boards vary in weight; the Michael Dolsey Design “Bam Bam” board Journagan offers is a light 23 pounds while others are as heavy as 45 pounds. They also come with a bungee cord storage for water.

“Over the past few years, boards have become wider for beginners and kids,” Journagan said.

Journagan and his partner Maria Jenness have been taking their now 2-year-old son, Roy, out on the water since the lad was six months old. In fact, that very morning, Roy and his mother had been out paddleboarding, but he was ready to go back out with her to show the newspaper lady how it was done.

Gwynne Jones, a Registered Maine Guide, work/plays at Tidal Transit and also agreed to go out on a paddleboard on that picture perfect morning.

Sunshine, temps in the high 70s, seabirds calling out as they fly overhead, and the water — cool and glistening — beckoned me to come and play.

Paddleboarders can lie down or kneel and use their arms to glide across the water, or go for the SUP (stand-up paddleboarding) method. The gang at Tidal Transit will instruct newbies about the sport. How to: find your center; stand up (keeping your feet parallel, shoulder width apart); use the paddle and basic strokes; and so forth before you take it to the water.

Paddleboards can also be used like docks to swim off of. You'll be wet anyway, so who cares.

“It's fun to get out on the water,” Journagan said. “But, yeah, you get pretty wet; that's why we will include a wet suit with each rental.”

Ralph Reeve, a Master Maine Sea Kayak Guide has begun his 10th summer at Tidal Transit. Reeve is a paddleboard enthusiast.

“Paddleboards give you a fantastic core workout,” Reeve said. Yes, that and incredible arm and leg strengthening!

And, if you really want to get Zen with it, try paddleboard yoga. Journagan said last summer a gal was teaching classes on boards latched to a float for stability.

As Gwynne and Maria demonstrated paddle strokes (with Roy smiling and enjoying the ride) it was clear they were having a good time, fully in the moment, experiencing Zen on the water.

For more information about paddleboarding, just ask Travis, Gwynne, Ralph, Maria or Wyatt at Tidal Transit, 18 Granary Way in Boothbay Harbor and at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay.