A woman on a stand up paddle board, another sits on one in the background
Water sports

Stepping Out of the Comfort Zone, on a Paddle Board

Recently I took my first of what I expect will be many Outdoor Discovery School classes. Stand Up Paddle Boarding has increased in popularity in recent years, and the interest has increased the number of places one can buy a board or try one out for an hour or two. (Many waterfront outfitters that provide small watercraft also rent paddle boards.) Though it takes some coordination and balance, it is a fun activity that provides a good workout.

Lake Nockamixon

For my first experience, I chose a class at Lake Nockamixon, (Bucks County, PA) run by the Center Valley L.L. Bean store. Arriving a bit early, we has plenty of time to apply sunscreen and bug spray (provided) and were given the opportunity to top off our water bottles before class began. Our instructors, Kennedy and Jacquelyn, went through the safety briefing and provided basic lessons in getting on the board (from both near the shore and out in deep water) and strokes and we made our way to the water.

Stand Up Paddle Boarding class at Lake Nockamixon

Once out in deep enough water, it didn’t take long for all four of us to get to our feet (even if a bit wobbly) and we were off. Starting in a nearby cove, we practiced strokes and everyone seemed to quickly get the hang of it, prompting someone to comment how great it was that everyone was up on their feet. Seconds later, there was a splash. To be fair, I knew I was going over just as those words were spoken. After a brief struggle to keep my balance, I acknowledged defeat and went for a brief swim.  While it was unexpected, the weather was perfect for a dip and the life jacket did its job. The instructions given at our briefing on how to get back on the board from the water worked like a charm, but I chose to continue paddling in a seated position for a little while.

From your knees, to your toes …
… to your feet

After about five minutes, I decided to try again. Getting back on my feet the second time was much easier than the first. (Part of this was likely the fear factor. After all, I’d already fallen in, what more was there to be afraid of?) For the next hour, we explored the area just off the shore of the lake, traveling down to another nearby cove before turning back as our class session was coming to a close. Going from a standing position to a kneeling or sitting one also became easier (and without the splash and time sitting on the board feeling helpless as instructors fetched my paddle and hat out of the lake).

Shortly after my “swim”

The class was informative and fun. While this class is geared to beginners, it is open to anyone and if you don’t mind sitting through the introductory lesson, a good way to get some paddle boarding time without the hassle and expense of buying your own board or even finding a friend to go with you. I highly recommend this class and may even take it again in the future.

L.L. Bean offers other outdoor classes as well,  in activities such as kayaking, canoeing, fishing, hiking, camping, stand up paddle boarding, archery, snow shoeing, cross country skiing and biking. The Discovery Series of beginner classes cost $25 with all necessary equipment provided. The company also offers some free programs and longer outdoor trips.