The Art of Stoke

Having been born and raised by the ocean, it came natural for my brother and I to become avid watermen. From the Mediterranean beaches of France, Captiva and Sanibel Islands in Florida to the wonderful coast of California and now Virginia Beach, Virginia. We have always been captivated with all things ocean related, from marine wildlife to riding waves to free diving for huge conch shells, and wanted to try everything.

The feeling described as “stoked” was most likely first discovered when we were really young and would spend 8-9 hours on the beach with our mom, smiling ear to ear and exploring this strange environment. The first time I really knew I felt it though has to be when I first stood up on a surf board, no surfer forgets this moment…along with the first board they owned. After a long and brutal beating I took in Huntington Beach(mind you I had picked THE worst day, 6ft+ waves and horrible rip currents), I finally stood up and got to ride a couple waves. Feeling exhausted yet accomplished, I sat there on the beach watching waves roll in and feeling a euphoric high, I was stoked.

Photo Courtesy: LairdHamilton.com

I have always looked up to dedicated watermen Laird Hamilton, and having brought SUP major media attention within the last 5-7 years, I decided it would only be fit for a apprentice watermen like myself to teach myself how to SUP.

There are many speculations of how stand up paddle boarding came about and how its a “new” sport everyone’s doing, let me clarify things up in a super short story. It came about in the late 50’s in Hawaii as a way for beach boys(natives) to take pictures of tourists learning how to surf so as not to brake their cameras, although some people think it dates back a thousand years to Tahitians standing up on canoes and paddling into the surf.

SUP became popular for a while in the 60’s and 70’s and then it died down until the
Renaissance was brought out by a long dry flat spell in 2000. Such big time watermen as Laird Hamilton, Dave Kalama, Mel Pu’u and Bruce De Soto used it as a way to get a great work out on their tandem boards. Soon enough they found out it was also an awesome way to surf and after a few contests SUP was back on the map.

Photo Courtesy: Swaylocks.com

Queue: Stand Up Paddle board and Loic, fast forward 8-9 years and setting is Virginia Beach, VA.

I was a bit frustrated at first because I have always picked up water sports fairly quickly and this day was the second attempt at surfing from the stand up position. Mind you I had done a lot of inner coastal waterway cruising on it, and felt fairly comfortable but the new position in which you paddle in felt so foreign. I ditched the paddle earlier the second day and surfed it like a really really big long board. A few short rides and I realized I either needed to gain a 100lbs next week to turn this 11’6″ beast or learn to use the paddle(greatly increases your turning ability). I set the board down and chilled until right before sunset. The beach cleared up, barely anyone in sight…good, no one will laugh when I eat crap on the sand bar but myself. Right then and there I felt it when I picked up the board, I was going to surf this “boat”. I knee paddled out, stood up and looked out for my first victim of the evening, cool I thought; no kids around to run over. A small swell built up, didn’t look like much and honestly didn’t know if it would even break but I turned the board around(standing up) and paddled. Three strokes in I realized I was riding the wave!! I quickly shifted my feet to my regular footed stance and dug the paddle in the right side to cut a sharp right. I was in, like the first wave I ever caught I smiled ear to ear and laughed out loud.  Caught a few more until I called it a night, sat the board next to me and watched the sunset…Stoked. Another watermen notch on my belt, now I just have to take it out on bigger waves!

Photo Courtesy: Loic Bernard

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