“How can we go paddle boarding if no one has a board?” asks the Senior Patrol Leader, “and where would we go?” Almost in unison, they boys pull out their iPhones and began searching for lessons and board rentals. In only a matter of seconds, they turn up several surf schools on the coast and with a few more clicks they have pricing and schedules. The webcam on the beach gives everyone a good idea of what to expect, so a vote is taken and a paddle board outing is added to the Troop calendar.
On the day of the outing, the vans are loaded and headed to the ocean. There isn’t a lot of equipment, only towels, lunches, sunscreen and bottled water. The day is cloudy and overcast, so most of the boys are shivering when we get out of the cars. One Scout brings his wetsuit because he heard the water might be cold, something the other Scouts have forgotten.
Upon our arrival, a cheerful instructor takes our money and organizes everyone into classes. Despite some brief discussion about surfing, most have opted for paddle boarding or kayaking. The safety talk is delivered with enthusiasm (stay away from sharks and wear your PFD if you get into a kayak) and the basics of boarding are reviewed. Mostly, the boys stand on their surf boards in the sand to get used to the feel. Waving their paddles back and forth, they gamely imitate strokes that will be useful once they are in the water.
Eventually the Scouts grab their equipment and head for the surf. The wade in up to their ankles and turn around quickly. “What’s wrong?” I ask. The water is too cold. They want to go back and sit by the equipment rental center until the sun comes out. Not so fast and I grab the closest Scout and run him into the surf. The others scatter like small birds before I can get to them. It takes the instructor 20 minutes to get everyone lined up again. She glares at me almost the whole time.
The group makes a lot of noise as they reluctantly move into the water with their boards. They are supposed to get go out a few yards and then stand on their boards to work on their balance. Wind surfers and kite boarders are already out in the water. Unlike our Scouts, they are moving with grace and seem to know what they are doing. It’s exciting to watch them skittering across the waves.
Eventually, some of the more coordinated Scouts manage to stand up on their boards for a few seconds before falling sideways. Most just straddle the boards and with their feet firmly on the sand in the shallow water. When the instructor gives up and ends the lessons, the boys jump into the ocean and start pushing their boards around in the small waves. This gives way to a battle, and everyone tries to climb onto the same board. One Scout dives under the water and tries to topple everyone from below. He manages to knock several of his Patrol into the water before being beaten back with the long paddles, then retreats with his hand in the air over his shoulder, mimicking a shark as he swims away.
The next two hours are tranquil as the boys paddle around on their boards and the adults sit on the sand or venture out on kayaks. The outing is not cheap (budget more than $100 for lessons and equipment rental) but the ocean is a nice change from hiking and cycling. Plus, paddle boarding is great for core body strength, which comes in handy on a backpacking trip.