Once you get your balance, there's no looking back
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I'm a big fan of outdoorsy adventure activities, as long as they don't involve blisters, insects, sleeping on rocks, cold water, walking uphill for extended periods or excessive quantities of rope.
I like my showers hot, my toilets enclosed and flushable, and my sweating kept to a minimum. My ancestors did not come down from the trees and put on shoes to dangle from a cliff or eat jerky in wet shorts while being drained by mosquitoes.
But that doesn't mean my sole outdoor recreation is dining al fresco.
I tried kayaking and thought it was pretty terrific. The next day I couldn't lift my arms to brush my teeth, but the next time I kayaked, I followed the guide's advice to use my core muscles rather than my arm muscles. That made a huge difference the next day, because I didn't try to brush my teeth with my core.
Now another recreational trend is making kayaking look kind of last summer.
I saw it first on a river in Austin, people standing on boards, using long paddles to glide along. They looked like gondoliers, if gondoliers lost the stripes and stood on a shorter, wider version of a surfboard.
Aside from the balance issue, it looked easy. So I wanted to try it.
I drove out one gorgeous afternoon to Northeast Paddleboard Co. in Boston, Pa., to try paddleboarding on the Youghiogheny. My two-hour rental included a lesson, to the amusement of a friend who had already paddleboarded.
"Lesson?" he asked. "There's not much to learn. Get on. Stand up. Paddle. Don't fall off."
He wasn't wrong. That is the game plan. But my beginner class got helpful tips from coaches Sandy and Eric, particularly about how to get on the board (on your knees) and ultimately, when you are embarrassed to be the only one still on your knees, how to stand up successfully. (Do not allow anyone behind you to have a camera.)
Once you are standing on the paddleboard, you come to a couple of realizations. One is that it is a delightful way to travel. The other is that you cannot look behind you. You get your balance pretty quickly, and none of the first-timers in my group fell off - but trying to turn around is surprisingly destabilizing. It's like life that way.
Two hours was a good long time, passing slowly on the peaceful river. Sometimes it's so shallow you can see the sandy bottom. Sometimes a power boat goes by, mercifully slowing down to reduce the wake that wobbled us paddlers. A few of us stopped to enjoy a rope swing on a tree over the water. I spotted a weird bird eyeballing me from the bank: It was a blue heron.
And that wasn't my only brush with wildlife. Before and after my paddle, I sat on the dock and let my feet dangle in the water, where they were immediately surrounded by minnows. And the minnows weren't shy about helping themselves to the calluses on my tootsies.
That's right: At Northeast Paddleboard, for no extra charge, you get a fish pedicure. Hours of wholesome outdoor recreation, AND a pampering spa treatment.
The next day, my arms were a little sore and a lot sunburned. But my feet were smooth as silk.
That's my kind of outdoor adventure.
First Published September 6, 2012 12:00 am