Earlier this spring I was contacted by a host through Workaway to come and help out with a new stand up paddle boarding business for 5-6 weeks. Let’s see…did I feel like taking a “job” in the Greek islands that would involve spending most days on the beach in my bikini, getting a great tan, and leading paddle board tours on the Aegean Sea? Umm, do cats like tuna?!
Okay, so I wasn’t really sure that was the job description – I could have been stuck in a stand renting out paddle boards and booking lessons all day for all I knew. My whole “saying yes to any opportunity that comes my way for 6 months” experiment does mean that I’m often not sure what I’m getting myself into until I get there…which is all part of the adventure!
To my very pleasant surprise, it was pretty much exactly as I had imagined. (Well, not exactly…in my fantasy I was camping on the beach instead of on a mountain, but I also hadn’t bargained on my host being a professionally trained chef, so it worked out.)
I was a little nervous that I would totally suck at paddle boarding – after all, my family doesn’t have a history of great balance and I tend to be a ginormous klutz. But, you guys, I rock at paddle boarding. It’s so much fun!
In case you haven’t heard of it, paddle boarding pretty much exactly what it sounds like. You stand upright on a floating board, much like a surf board and you paddle. It’s becoming really popular among surfers, and there are paddle boarding associations and competition all over the world.
As a kayaker, I already knew how to paddle, so it was just the balance part that I had to get used to. Anyone who is athletic at all won’t have a problem with it. And if you do fall in? Ummm, that’s just part of the fun! Believe me, when it’s 90+ degrees outside and the sun is beating down on you, falling into clear blue water is hardly a negative.
Even though I’m kind of a natural (not to brag or anything) I’m still a beginner. And really out of shape.
I meant to exercise this whole time (besides paddling), I really did. But…there are no flat surfaces on top of the mountain to do a HIIT workout…and running is out because the path down is almost a guaranteed broken ankle…and, I’ve been really busy. I know, all pathetic excuses. The truth is I have just been enjoying drinking wine at seaside tavernas and stuffing my face with deliciousness WAY too much to worry about it.
So, when we decided to set off on a grand paddle board adventure, I was perhaps a tad ill-prepared, but I never back down from a challenge.
We decided, one beautiful Sunday morning, to do a little island hopping…via paddle board. The trip from Skopelos to neighboring Alonissos had never been attempted by paddle boarders before, but ha! We would brave the ocean swells and scorching sun! We would laugh in the face of danger! We would…accidentally leave our shoes, money & cell phones in the car, forgetting to pack them in the dry bag. (I told you, this was a horribly disorganized adventure – don’t ever do this.)
It started out beautifully. The water was calm and there was a light breeze…until we rounded the corner out of the port. Then there were 6-7 foot waves trying to smash me into the rocks jutting out of the water. Yikes.
Paddling through waves that size is a completely different ballgame than paddling on a flat sea. By the time we reached the first beach – the first resting point! – I was exhausted.
7 miles doesn’t sound like much. I could walk it fairly easily. I could even run it if I got back in shape a bit. But paddle it? By this point I was seriously questioning our judgment.
Shane (my host and owner of the paddle boarding business, Sporades SUP) asked me if I wanted to turn around go back.
Turn back? Adventurers don’t turn back. “Well…we might as well go on to the end of the island and see how we feel,” I replied.
So we pressed on. And on. And on. Once we had gotten to the end of Skopelos island, it didn’t look that far to cross over to the next little island. And after a rest & some dates (the only food we remembered to bring), the next little island didn’t look too bad to get to. And from there…well we had only one more crossing to get to Alonissos. Sure, it was the furthest crossing we had attempted yet, but at this point the adrenaline had kicked in.
We made it!!
Now we just had to get back…
Thankfully, there were a few distractions on the way back, like a school of little jellyfish that looked like floating condoms with bright orange heads. (I did briefly wonder if a passing yacht had just been having a killer party the night before.)
Just when I thought I might pass out on the board, we saw a monk seal! It wasn’t quite a dolphin, but it could have been, which reminded me that I will be swimming with dolphins (a lifelong dream of mine) in just a few months. So, I decided against falling in and letting myself be swept away into the waves. Thank you, monk seal, you probably saved my life.
Shane asked if I was planning on hitting him over the head with the paddle when we got back to shore because this great island hopping adventure has been his brain-child. If I could have lifted my arms, I might have.
Even though I had visions of murder by paddle flashing before my eyes, the truth is, I felt like a badass for making that voyage. I accomplished something I never thought I could do. Every tour we have led since has seemed like a piece of cake to me.
Moral of the story: if there’s ever something in life you’re having difficulty achieving, just go out and do the hardest thing you can possibly think of and your original challenge will suddenly seem easy in comparison.
(Alternate moral: never trust an Irishman living on top of a Greek mountain.)
In all seriousness, though, stand up paddle boarding is a great adventure. It can be either relaxing or a great workout, depending on weather conditions and what you’re in the mood for. I would highly recommend you try it out.
If you’re ever in the Skiathos-Skopelos area, check out Sporades SUP. The sunset tours are spectacular if I say so myself.
Disclaimer: Despite my affiliation with Sporades SUP, the only compensation I received in exchange for this post was a gyro & a near-death experience (okay, that second part may be an exaggeration). All opinions are my own.
This post is part of the #SundayTraveler series. See the rest of the lineup and link your travel post at Frank About Croatia or any of the other fantabulous hosts listed below.