Stand Up Paddle Boarding (Ish)

Kailua Bay, Oa'hu

On my first full day in Hawaii, I wanted to do something that was a little active but also relaxing in order to ease into my very adventurous vacation. So, my friend Tiffany and I rented stand-up paddle boards (or SUPs as the cool kids call them) to explore Kailua Bay with. I have never been on a stand up paddle board, but I wasn’t too worried about being able to do it. I mean, how hard can it be right? It’s just standing, yeah? And I read this post from The Sweat Factor blog before leaving – apparently, if you can stand, you can SUP.

Let me start this by telling you this important detail about myself that will come in to play in nearly all of the island adventures that I had in the last week – I am VERY uncoordinated, have terrible balance, and am totally clumsy. I’ve been 5’8 since I was 12 years old, but somehow I’ve never grown out of that feeling of being much taller than I feel like I should be.

They don't seem this big and sturdy in the water.

We used a Groupon that Tiffany bought to rent SUPs from Hawaiian Watersports in Kailua and after signing our life away on a few waivers, we headed to the water to pick up our boards from a laid-back guy with a pony tail and earrings, who gave us a few pointers and sent us on our merry way.

We decided to try out the boards in the canal next to the beach, where we figured the calm waters would help while we got accustomed to standing on the SUPs. At first, standing was easy, but paddling and steering was hard – not only do you have to worry about keeping your balance (which is quite a workout for your core), you also have to try to move forward and steer with just one long paddle. I got stranded under the bridge a few times and had a hard time paddling my way out. But after about 15 minutes of practice in the canal, we were eager to join the big boys and hit the ocean.

In the canal - One of the few pics I have where I'm actually standing on the SUP.

The waters of Kailua Bay are characteristically calm and clear, and today was no exception. We carried our boards into the water and set off to sea, starting in a sitting position until we got away from the swimmers and snorkelers. To be fair, I also wanted to get away from any spectators – I was sure people would laugh at us as we tried this for the first time and had our first few wipe outs. I know I would! We floated out further and watched as tanned, seasoned SUP-ers paddled by with ease, and we decided it was time we gave it a go.

It is easier to sit.....

It goes without saying that I wiped out pretty hard core on my first attempt. Standing on a three feet wide board in waves isn’t easy, and forget about paddling. If I did manage to stand for more than a minute, trying to point my board in the right direction was impossible. Finally after about 4 or 5 hard wipe outs I decided that I liked sitting, laying, and kneeling on the board just fine and I didn’t need to stand, thank you very much. Tiffany fared better than me, but also eventually decided it was more relaxing to sit and slowly paddle next to each other.

The view of Kailua Bay from Flat Island.

We paddled out to Popoia, or Flat Island, a bird sanctuary with a small beach to land your board on, and walked around for a bit. Most of it is roped off to protect the birds, but it was nice to have a break from paddling and see the whole of the bay from off-shore.

We then slowly made our way back, going up and down the coast and chatting away. Tiffany is my best friend from high school back in Texas, and she moved to Hawaii a little over a year ago. Laying and sitting on the boards and floating far off shore was a lot of fun and was a perfect way for us to enjoy the place and each other’s company at the same time. I don’t know how else to describe it except that it was like we were both lying on pool floaties, soaking up the sun and engaging in quality girl talk, except we were in a beautiful bay in Hawaii, floating over coral reefs and clear water teeming with fish and sea turtles.  It was unreal.

I highly recommend renting SUPs in Kailua Bay if anyone is on their way to Oa’hu. If you’re into active stuff on your vacation, OR if you just want a new way to enjoy the beautiful beaches, they are a lot of fun. But, if you aren’t very coordinated and/or are a clumsy writer with two left feet like me, don’t expect to do a lot of standing up.

You can rent a SUP for a full day (9am to 4:30pm) from Hawaiian Watersports for $39. Address: 167 Hamakua Drive, Kailua, HI 96734. Phone: 808.262.KITE (5483)

Tiffany planking on the SUP. I had to get this photo in, one way or another!