Stand Up!

So I had a day off.

This is a relatively rare occurence, not because I am a workaholic (well, OK, I am), but because I know that the work stacking up for me while I’m gone will make my return to work a miserable slog–which stresses me out no end just anticipating it. Which negates the good of a day off! So I generally just keep my head down and shoulder to the wheel, you know? Easier that way.

[Insert long sad story about Plan A, then Plan B, then Plan C for my semi-historic day off being cancelled . . . Sigh. This is the story of my Crazyplate life.]

I could’ve just taken the cancellations as a sign from the universe to pack it in and go to work already, but you know what?  I was *determined* to have a real day off, daddurnit!

To the rescue! Comes this tweet from River Riders, a local outfitter and adventure company:

@riverriders: This weekend is perfect for a water adventure! Visit our website http://t.co/NXK2m3ot or Call 800-326-7238 to book…

So’s I did.

For the past couple of years kayaking on our rivers, we had been seeing more and more folks on stand-up paddleboards. Every time I’d see one, I’d suck in my breath, ooooooooh, and declare that I’d have to try this one day!  And then, just this summer, River Riders announced that they were adding stand-up paddleboarding to their activities, including a lesson!  I knew the day was getting closer.

That day, as it turned out, was Friday, August 3, 2012. Which JUST SO HAPPENED to coincide with my one single, stubborn Day Off That Refused To Die.  So let me tell you about my great experience with this company. Local WV and DC-area folks, you need to know about River Riders!

First of all, I love that River Riders makes such great use of social media.  And why wouldn’t they? They hire some of the best and brightest young adults in the area, who are all tech-savvy and no doubt keep the online interaction with locals and clients (or potential clients) immediate, current, and responsive.

So when I jumped over to their Facebook page to find the parallel posting (also good social media practice) and to get some additional info, I was pleased but not all surprised when I got a response right back. Yes, they had openings for stand-up paddleboarding (and then they gave me more information than I had initially asked for–prices and times, anticipating my inevitable next questions).

Then, when I called and found out that not only were there openings for stand-up paddleboarding, but that my son and I would be the only two to sign up all day long–they did not cancel or waffle or charge us more.  We would have a lesson and a river guide all to ourselves for three entire hours! There was an additional transportation fee they generally charge when shuttling such a small group, since fuel prices are so high, but Amanda (the helpful person behind the phone, and a Shepherd alum!) readily waived it, since SUP was a new activity and not well-known yet. (She just asked that I write a review up–which I’m doing!)

The reservation and payment was all handled by phone, pretty straightforward, and then Isaac and I loaded up and headed out. We needed to be there an hour ahead of time for legal paperwork (waivers for participating in dangerous activities–we won’t sue them, in other words), and the required water safety video briefing (wear shoes, don’t drink alcohol, don’t be stupid–I might be paraphrasing).

The place was packed, and while I was happy that a local business was doing so well,  the one concern I had (job-related eyeballs on operations wherever I go) was that it was unclear to us whether there was a line to get into, or a specific place along the counter for folks with reservations to report to. So people milled about, and I totally missed a spontaneous line formation, and ended up behind people who had come in *after* we had arrived.  I was not going to waste my day off being upset, but I could see how, say, a mom with five kids to manage might get pretty exercised about that. Just a thought from an office management perspective . . . Maybe some signage to help direct people, or separate areas of the counter for different kinds of customers (Got Reservations? Check In Here). That sort of thing.

Once we got through all of that, and the shuttle was loaded (another couple was being transported to the same place for a different activity, so it had full usage), and we were on our way.

We put in at the River Riders campground, one of their several new offerings–great work, folks!–on a wide, deep stretch of the Potomac.  It looked like a lake instead of a river! The sun was out, the sky was clear, and it wasn’t too awfully hot–a perfect day to be on the water with my boy.

Our personal guide, John, gave us some verbal instructions about the paddleboards, then waded with us into the river to demonstrate and teach us the “onloading” procedures.  We waded through a couple of feet of pretty deep river muck, but THIS IS WHY YOU WEAR SHOES (and preferably water shoes that will not be sucked off your feet by swift currents or deep goo, both realities of river life).  A belly-flop onto the board, a kneel, pivot, a squat, and a careful straightening (hey, kettlebell training coming in handy already! This is part of a Turkish get-up!) and I was standing on the water. Isaac did fine, too–neither of us ended up face-first on the board (or in the water).  Paddling strokes and turns came next while we were in shallower water–and then we were off.

We headed upstream, away (thankfully) from the noisier crowds in tubes.  The river got very quiet, disturbed only by the happy shrieks of people on the zip line canopy tour, yet another part of River Rider’s expansion of adventures this summer.

And the jet skis.  Sigh.  I suspect I might end up alienating a good portion of fellow water-lovers whose enjoyment of the outdoors involves revving up gas-powered engines at high volumes and speeds, scaring (if not injuring) the wildlife, and ruining the peace and quiet for everyone else.  But it’s a risk I’m willing to take.  I also suspect they’re not busy reading blogs like these.

Despite the jet skis–who have a perfect right, probably guaranteed in the Constitution somewhere, to be as obnoxious as they wanna be–it was beautiful.  I loved the view I had into the water from the standing position, seeing to the bottom, seeing the limestone ridges that form the spine of both river and mountain.  I loved the view of the Blue Ridge against the sky. I loved that my son was with me. I was happy, and quiet, and happy to be quiet.

[I didn’t love that I had forgotten the sunscreen, or water to drink.  I think those were in the safety video, which clearly I should have watched *before* we left the house. Duh.  That sun was pretty strong, despite the breeze and cooler temps. I was schvitzin’, lemme tell you. And both of us were pretty crispy the next day.]

We paddled for about an hour and a half, trying the different positions on the board that John suggested, and demonstrated, for when our legs felt fatigued–and they did, believe me! Every muscle, big and small, from my feet up to my core, was working hard to find stability on an inherently unstable surface:  the ever-moving surface of a river. Great workout, but I needed to take breaks–so I learned to kneel-down paddle just fine, and Isaac enjoyed sit-down paddling and even bellyboarding for a time!

The turnaround trip, going back downstream to the campground, was much faster with the current assisting us, although the wind kicked up a bit and supplied some chop just to keep things interesting. We were ready for lunch, and cold water, and naps, but couldn’t help feeling a little twinge of regret when we saw the campground come into view.

The whole time, John treated us with great professionalism and good humor. I was surprised to learn that this was his very first summer with the outfit! This speaks highly of the caliber of employee the company hires, and the training it provides.

Will I stand-up paddle again? I’d like to, so that I can move beyond my first-timer tentativeness, start to build confidence in finding my balance (there’s that word again, so important to this blog!). I do think in the end that I’ll prefer kayaking for a couple of reasons: you can stow stuff in a kayak, and you can go fast!  I like some wind in my hair, and I just seem to be at the wrong angle to generate leverage or speed on the SUP.  And though I like the view from higher up (just like when we bought my first SUV), I like the stability provided by the lower center of gravity of a kayak. It’s all a trade-off in the end.

So, another adventure, another toy, another good thing on the Crazyplate that is my life–and many thanks to the good people of River Riders for making it happen on such short notice!  We’ll be back!

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Filed under Kayaking, Life in the Balance

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