This evening the sun came out for the first time in what seems like a year in New Jersey. We still can’t row (haven’t been on the water in 3 weeks), but I had to get outside to avoid going crazy. The water had receded enough that I decided to try out my new Kahuna Creations longboard and Big Stick land paddle at Saddle River park. This is the first time I have tried it for any real distance, and despite lots of destruction on the path, it turned into a 6-mile land paddle, and it was a blast!
What is land paddling? It’s stand-up paddling on a skateboard using a big stick with a rubber head:
As someone who finds SUP addictive but is limited by the seasons and geography here in New Jersey, land paddling seemed like a logical “off water” exercise to learn. Here are my impressions:
1. It’s easier to learn than SUP: SUP is pretty easy, but on relatively flat ground land paddling is even easier. I never fell off, I never hit anything, and it was surprisingly easy to steer around all the debris still on the path from the recent storms. The debris also doesn’t stop you in your tracks like it does on rollerblades. For anyone who has ever tried SUP, the paddle motion is completely natural.
2. It’s FAST: It is much faster than actual SUP, about as fast as a fast runner or an average bike. Because of this, I actually found the stroke to be more similar to rowing than to SUP – once you get going, you have to be very precise in picking up the speed of board on the pavement with the paddle tip, and applying an impulse that is much shorter and more explosive. That reminded me of the catch timing and impulse in a fast rowing boat, which is much faster than most SUP boards on flat water. It also made we wish I were wearing a helmet and pads just in case – I didn’t expect it to be so fast. I did start to fishtail on some of the downhills – I have to learn how to carve to slow myself down because I am a pretty big guy and braking with the stick was not very effective on downhills.
3. I have no idea how to go up hills: Still have to figure this out.
4. The foot stance is pretty natural: I found that I preferred to point my leading foot more parallel to the axis of the board, and carry my weight more on my rear foot. I don’t know if that’s correct, but it felt good.
5. I have to practice paddling on the “back” side, and using a goofy foot stance. Today I used regular foot for the whole paddle, and only paddled on one side where I felt most comfortable. It’s not as easy to switch sides as it is on a SUP because you are not straddling the board with your hips facing forward, but rather are standing at an angle. I found trying to switch sides like trying to swing a golf club left-handed, and I was having too much fun to figure it out this time. That’s a future goal. The guys in the video above obviously know what they are doing.
6. It was a great workout. I was drenched. My glutes, quads, and core were cooked, especially the glute above my forward foot. In many ways, the stroke is like doing a reverse kettlebell swing in which you would be pulling the weight down instead of opening up. I found that in order to get the stick to grip the full length of the stroke, I had to really press down on the head throughout the power drive, which meant I had to put quite a lot more muscle into it than I thought. It’s not like a SUP or rowing stroke in which you want to flick the blade along as horizontally as possible – there was a distinct sense of bearing down on the stick during the pushoff. That also means that I put a lot more lower body work and body weight transfer into it than in actual SUP.
7. It works well when the path is on the beach, but not when the beach is on the path Many sections of the path were still covered with sand or wet mud from the recent floods, and that made for some abrupt slowdowns and some exciting fishtailing! You can see the authentic Jersey hurricane mud on the board, and on the collapsed stick in the back of my car.
8. At one point I thought there was a little bird following me. Then I realized that when the wind was in my face, the open adjustment holes on the Big Stick were making it resonate and play like a tin whistle. It was a cool bonus to have a little wind music as I paddled along!
The bottom line is that I would encourage everyone to try this. It was the most fun I had in a while even though I really didn’t know what I was doing!