Dana Johannsen

Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald’s chief sports reporter

Hawaii: Standing up's the easy part of paddleboarding

A learner's first requirement is finding their centre of balance. Photo / Getty Images
A learner's first requirement is finding their centre of balance. Photo / Getty Images

With stand-up paddleboarding an emerging global craze, I figure the best place to learn is in Hawaii, where the sport began.

When it seems everyone from 7 to 70-year-olds are zooming around on the water off Waikiki beach on their paddleboards, you can be easily fooled into thinking it must be easy.

It all appears pretty straightforward, too, when I am shown the ropes on land, with my instructor, Kai, taking me through the basics of how to stand up, where to hold the paddle, how to steer, and how to bail off the board without getting whacked in the head (ha, as if I'll need to know that).

Once I'm on the water, though, everything I learned soon escapes me. As I stagger around on the board like a newborn foal, while those smug 7-year-olds paddle past with ease, Kai reminds me to bend my knees, position my weight in the board's centre and keep my head up.

After a few more ungraceful swan dives off the board, I finally rediscover my centre of gravity and am happily paddling away, albeit with limited manoeuvrability.

Having mastered staying upright, the next challenge was catching a wave. This, unfortunately, I couldn't conquer in a one-hour lesson, but I had plenty of fun trying.

With time nearly up, the thought crossed my mind that I was going to be stranded at sea, unable to catch a wave back in. But Kai had the solution. He told me to lie down and gave my board a mighty shove, blasting me on to a wave back to shore - straight past those smug 7-year-olds.

Dana Johannsen travelled as a guest of Air New Zealand.

- NZ Herald

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