Stand up still has a long road to walk (or should that be paddle?). This won’t come as a surprise to many, but when you spend the majority of your life sweeping around with the already initiated, losing sight of the bigger picture is an ever present danger. During a recent overseas trip I had this point rammed home to me in no less blunt fashion.
Certain areas of the world still haven’t experienced the pleasures of SUP, and in fact some locations are still unsure of what a stand up paddle boarder actually is.
SUP – not to everyone’s liking
When you sit back and think about the sport, it is odd. Squinting through the haze at what appears to be someone walking on water, with a broken kayak paddle for propulsion, is unusual. And the surprise doesn’t stop there. When you get up close and they can actually see what you’re up to, both the amusement and intrigue is obviously plastered across faces.
But not everyone is pleased to see stand ups in the water, and I was on the on the receiving end of this negativity a few days ago.
The hotel we were staying at nestles in a beautifully picturesque sheltered bay that, mostly, is perfectly flat and calm – great for all kinds of flat water SUP. A few laps every morning couldn’t have been easier. Simply wander out front, put in and off you go.
On this occasion a stiff Trade Wind was blowing allowing for turbo crossings before heading back upwind, in the lee of the beach, and doing it all again – fitness and fun all in one go. Going about my business, I was suddenly surprised to hear a very annoyed English gentleman yelling at me across the otherwise quiet and serene white sand. At first I wasn’t sure where the shouting was coming from or who it was directed at. I whirled round thinking someone was in trouble but suddenly realised that the aggression was aimed at me.
At first I was a little shocked and scanned through memories to pinpoint what I had done. Drawing a blank I paddled in shaking my head in disbelief at being ordered out of the water. In hindsight I probably appeared to have succumbed to the tirade and was later told that I should have gone back out to spite the man. But antagonism isn’t my thing and I thought it best to let the situation blow over.
His issue seemed to be that I was too close inshore, even though we all know that an inflatable SUP, securely leashed on the flat is hardly going to cause incident. There are plenty more issues with motorised craft buzzing too close to bathers and I can only imagine he somehow thought I was using something similar.
This was more or less confirmed during the following day when I was out once again doing my thing. I’d completed two full laps of Morne Rouge (roughly four miles) and was heading for a third when I once again heard the familiar shouts from the same man – this time from the beach.
With an extremely red face, puffed out chest and visibly steaming (I thought he was about to explode) he was wildly gesticulating from the northern shore and screaming at me to head out to sea, which I was about to do.
As I got nearer he became even more animated and other sunbathers had started to sit up and inspect the commotion. This was the last straw, as to the uneducated, it appeared as if I was in the wrong, when I clearly wasn’t. Resolving to try and talk calmly to the chap, and educate him a little to the ways of SUP, I paddled in.
As I approached he calmed some and I asked him what the issue was. Through clenched teeth and spittle he began saying how I shouldn’t be so close to the beach and swimmers. I shook my head and politely explained that my craft was an inflatable board, with a secure leash attaching it to my ankle and that I was in perfect control – I highlighted I hadn’t fallen once. He wouldn’t have it though and proceeded to call me ignorant and stated: ‘I should take my BOAT elsewhere’ at which point I chuckled at the irony. My efforts were a lost cause and I paddled off.
I explained the situation to my wife. Fi is a great sounding board and I trust her judgement – she’s ever the diplomat and always keen to do the right thing. In this instance she couldn’t believe what I was telling her. Sometimes I appreciate I may be in the wrong, but not this time. Fi couldn’t work out what the guy’s issue was and found it baffling.
As we sat in disbelief we could see the man still in a state of fury – he was positively boiling and I couldn’t believe someone could get so worked up over something truly inconsequential. Just as he was about to pop we watched him strut off towards the hotel’s reception. I looked at Fi knowingly and sure enough, within a few short minutes, a staff member appeared by his side.
He was still fuming and pointing in my general direction, but as Fi commented, what could anyone say exactly. I wasn’t a hazard, nuisance or problem. My kit was my own and there are no laws banning SUP in Grenada.
SUP at Morne Rouge, Grenada
The hotel staff member hung around for a couple of minutes before deciding there wasn’t an issue. She promptly headed inside, obviously wondering what all the fuss was about, and that was that…
In hindsight I think the man’s objections to me paddling were based purely on ignorance of what the sport is. He obviously believed that my SUP was motorised and that somehow, standing up, caused even greater risk to others.
This incident highlights how far the sport has yet to go before mainstream acceptance is commonplace. When we paddle in our groups it’s important to be aware that not everyone understands our passion and some may even fear it. We have a responsibility in educating people about SUP.
As much hard work is put in to the promotion and safe practice of stand up there will always be those we can never convince. In this case, the chap was one such person – a dead loss. All we can do is smile, take the abuse on the chin and keep clam and paddle on…