I grew up always wanting to try surfing, but -- as a landlocked Boulder boy -- I never got the chance.
My buddy Ryan recently told me about stand-up paddle boarding, which he says is "super fun and a great workout." To prove his point, he showed me videos of some crazy dudes flying through rapids in the rivers of Colorado.
It's not traditional surfing, where you see guys carving huge waves, but it did look like a good time -- kind of like a mix between kayaking and surfing.
Now, I'm not graceful at any water sport, but Ryan promised that it's so easy to pick up, a 5-year-old can do it. So I took him up on his offer for a quick lesson, and we headed to the calm, flat waters of the Boulder Reservoir.
The stand-up paddle board looks much like a regular surfboard, but it's quite a bit longer, wider and thicker. This allows the user to easily stand on the board while paddling through waves, or, in this case, through the wake of motorboats flying around the reservoir.
The sport is gaining popularity across the globe because it's much easier than regular surfing and also because it's a great core workout. You work your upper body with constant paddling, much like kayaking or canoeing, and the core workout comes as you focus on the act of balancing while paddling and staying upright.
Ryan and his buddy Walker jumped on the boards first and cruised around effortlessly. If they were wearing black-and-white-striped shirts and goofy hats, they'd look like the gondoliers in Venice.
"In the early morning or evening when the wind dies down, it makes for a really peaceful workout," he said.
I was surprised at how stable the boards are to stand on; I was expecting to fall off immediately, but it was actually pretty easy to paddle straight out. Making a turn was a different story, though.
Ryan coached me as best he could, telling me to move one leg back on the board to shift my weight and make a pivot to the left. This didn't work out for me, though, and I pivoted myself right off the board and into the reservoir. Good thing the water is still warm out there.
I got back on a few more times and finally got the hang of it. Before long, I felt completely comfortable and was having a ball.
The great thing about this sport is that it's accessible to anyone. It's not nearly as scary as being crammed into a little kayak; all you do is stand up and paddle.
I imagine, however, that paddling on a raging river is a much different story. It's probably quite a bit more dangerous, but with more danger usually comes more fun. We'll leave that lesson for next summer.
For details on lessons, rentals and sales: www.mountainpaddlesurf.com
Beginner class: Up to four in a group; $50 total
Intermediate: $50 for two people
River skills: $150 for two people
(All equipment provided for lessons)