Stand Up Paddleboarding: An introductory class that builds confidence and comradery

I had the opportunity to take an introductory paddleboarding class for women. It was a great way to meet energetic women who are up for a challenge and a few good laughs. I brought a friend along and when we arrived, the owner Jeff, welcomed us with a high five and a glint in his eye, assuring us that falling in is the best part. We quickly joined the circle and made introductions as the instructor began the lesson.

The Basics

Our instructor, Delaney, picked the paddles and began to size us, making sure that our wrists bent over the handle with our arms raised over our heads. We practiced the correct hand placement using the 90 degree rule. She demonstrated how to do correct forward strokes, explaining that the top arm should be straight as you’re leaning forward. We felt comfortable asking questions as she repositioned us when necessary. We made our way down to the loading area, and I took a few pictures as I waded into the shallow water. I peered into the hazy sunset toward the silhouette of the paddler in front of me. As I entered the water, I made sure to steady myself before standing up. The position from kneeling to standing was a relatively smooth transition: paddle on the board, feet come together and stand up!

Physical Activity

I stood up and started to paddle, genuinely enjoying the simplicity of the sport. I can direct where I want to go and how fast I want to go. We practiced stopping and turning in the water using the reverse sweep stroke. That was a bit trickier because you’re moving the paddle in the opposite direction. For example, if I put the paddle on the left side and push it forward, it will move my body counterclockwise.

I noticed that my core muscles tightened as I made turns and steadied myself. As we paddled down the river, we naturally paired off and made small talk; pointing out the buildings, yelling out to one another and laughing as we swayed unsteadily with the passing boats. We went under the Mystic River Bascule Bridge and formed a circle. Delaney showed us a challenging turn that required us to bravely step back on the edge of the board, so the front raised above the water and could easily pivot in the opposite direction. I chose to watch and take a photo instead.

On the way back, we made it to the Mystic Bridge just as it was lifting and marveled at the local attractions. On the other side, Delaney, who also teaches yoga at the Kula Project, showed us a few yoga poses on the board. We practiced Downward Dog and balancing on one foot, but for me, the highlight was lying down on the board with the fading sun warming my face. We all let out collective sighs and peacefully floated in silence.

Mind & Body

My favorite part of paddling is the calmness that takes over. It’s overwhelming how serene the activity is and my surroundings are. The light reflects off the water, and there’s a gentle splashing of the waves. It’s that repetitive, lapping sound that becomes the soundtrack of your trip.

I’m a mom of a toddler and this time on the water is what I need. With the hustle and bustle of balancing work, life, and parenting, this is an activity that undeniably resonates with me. It allows me to reflect and enjoy being in the moment, and for me, that’s the number one benefit of stand up paddling. It’s an activity that gives back to you, the precious commodity that we’re all searching for: time. If you’re a woman who has never paddled and would like to relax and bond with others, this is the solution!

by Shandon Foley