Week 30: I’m on a Bote!

Since swimming, biking, and running weren’t enough to keep me busy this summer, I have added a new hobby: stand up paddleboarding, aka SUP. And why not? It’s a great way to practice balance, build core strength, set my lats ablaze outside the pool, enjoy the outdoors, and have an excuse to wear a bikini.

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I have owned a SUP board since 2012, an entry-level inflatable with collapsible plastic paddle. It was easy to store and to lend to friends and swim coaches for open water support. However, while it was easy to fit into a 1 bedroom condo, it was not easy to set up. Think lots of pumping, then finally removing the hose from the nozzle and the hard-earned air whooshing out with alarming speed. (Apparently, you can twist the nozzle before starting to pump and avoid this, but it’s hard to know if you’ve set it up correctly.) Then after the SUP adventure, I had to spend more time deflating it and re-rolling it into the mesh bag, hoping I had gotten enough air out to roll it tightly enough to fit. (Usually, the answer was no.) This is all fine and good for the occasional foray, but that’s not what was on the schedule for this summer.

Did you know there are SUP races, and that the DC area (namely Annapolis) is quite the hub of activity? I wasn’t sure if I was ready to race, but signed up for the weekly SUP race training class offered by Potomac Paddlesports. It met right after work, precisely on my way home, and sessions I missed this year could be used next year – such a deal! The instructors and fellow students have been absolutely wonderful. There are two instructors and usually 3-4 students, ranging from experienced racers to just trying not to fall in (aka yours truly). It has been humbling and fun to see a sport through fresh eyes again and learn about the race scene and culture. While some aspects are similar to triathlon (drafting, heart rate zones), there’s still a lot to learn.

Which brings me back to the SUP board issue. Showing up to a race (or racing class) on an inflatable is like riding a Huffy at a triathlon. Sure, you can do it, but…umm yeah. I started researching race boards. Most are 12’6″ long and either 26″ or 28″ wide; nice boards are made out of carbon fiber and cost around $2000. Compared to a tri bike, this is cheap, but as of now, SUP is still a cross-training hobby for me, not a serious sport. So should I still shell out the big bucks for a race board? If I bought something cheaper, would I regret it when it was time to race?

Then, I saw it. REI College Park, annual garage sale. Incredible deals on gently used gear. Including a 12′ Bote SUP. It was beautiful. It was $1500…marked down to $750. Why, hello there. I laid my hands on it to prevent anyone else from taking it, then texted Elliott to come quick and help me figure out how to get it home. (Answer: return the next day with a roof rack.) But it was official, I now own a non-inflatable SUP. Is it an ultra-light, podium-seeking speed machine? Not really. It’s 32″ wide, which adds to the weight and resistance, but also makes the board incredible stable; I can keep paddling through waves without having to drop to my knees for stability. Plus, as I learned yesterday, it’s a dream for SUP yoga. Bote boards are known for having clever features, such as a spot to clip on a shoulder strap (easy to carry from the car), built-in attachments for fishing equipment or a cooler (no thanks), and a carrying case that folds up into itself for easy storage (hallelujah).

There you have it! Anyone want to go with me?

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