I have been surfing for forty-two years. During that time, I have seen equipment go through many transitions, and I have always tried to keep an open mind as things changed. I have gone from longboards to shortboards, trifins, quads, bonzers, and back. I have a quiver that covers all of those. I have never lost my passion for surfing, yet, even as it is happening, I am surprised as my passion for a new sport grows.
I watched with interest as Laird and other hardcore surfers took up stand-up paddling (SUP). Last summer, as week after week of Florida flatness went by, I started thinking about what great exercise it would be to SUP on flat days. But since it would be such a big investment, I held off. This year, as summer approached, I was ready to make the purchase. I went to a few demo days and tried different boards. I bought a used 10’6” and paddle and I was on my way. My plan was to paddle on flat days, either in the ocean or the river.
Funny how plans can change. After several flat water paddles, I was out on a small day and caught a wave. What happened next was a surprise. As that first wave picked me up, I got the same feeling I had as a kid on that longboard catching my first wave. It was exhilarating. And addicting. I wanted to do it again and again. Within two months, I downsized to a 9’6” so it would be easier to handle in the waves.
Stand-up paddling has opened up a new world for me. Surfing will always be my first love, but now I can be in the water when it is too small for my longboard or when I just want to ride something different. Sometimes we get a group together and explore the beautiful islands in the river. In just a few months, I have paddled with a school of bonnethead sharks, had a manatee swim right under me, and paddled with dolphins, rays, and fish.
Stand-up paddling has given me a new perspective of all the things around me. I am so happy that I was open to trying something new. I look forward to each new day and new adventure. Hopefully, this is just the beginning of the story and there will be many more tales to tell.
Melody DeCarlo is a surfer and a Girls4Sport team rider who lives in Florida. She began surfing in 1966.