Tips & Trips
Kids Take To Water In South Walton's Paddle Boarding Paradise
It started as a way for Hawaiian surf instructors to get a birds-eye view of their students in the water. But over the last decade, stand-up paddle boarding (called YOLO boarding locally) has become one of the world’s hottest new outdoor sports. In South Walton, glass-like dune lakes and gentle Gulf surf make the area one of the best places in the country to learn it, for adults and kids alike… but thanks to their lower centers of gravity, kids have a definite advantage.
“All it takes for a kid to really want to do it is to see another kid paddling”, says Walco EcoTours’ Murray Balkcom, who gives paddle boarding tours to people ages 12 and over from the Boat House in WaterColor. “Kids are probably less intimidated by the thought of doing it, but it is easy and fun for young and old.”
In fact, part of the reason for the booming popularity of standup paddle boarding is the relative ease of learning the sport. While surfing can take months or years to master, it often takes less than an hour to get comfortable on a standup paddle board, and within a day, kids will often be paddling their way across the water like it’s second nature.
Balkcom doesn’t even really consider the instructions he gives to people to actually be “lessons”. “We address the basics, which include standing position, how to paddle, and how to turn, just introductory tips before hitting the water. In general, it’s easy enough that most anyone can be paddling quickly.” Balkcom says any child who’s physically fit and enjoys the outdoors will enjoy standup paddle boarding.
For those that do try the sport, the rewards are numerous: An outdoor adventure with close-up aerial views of the water around them. A great core workout, one that uses muscles from the arms to abdominals to the back. A great time in the great weather. And, for many, a satisfying sense of accomplishment.
Balkcom likes to tell the story of one particular tour he led last year with a group of adults. “One of the men informed me that he couldn't swim, and was a bit intimidated by the water. He was a bit shaky at first and fell in one time, but quickly got right back up on the board. After the tour, he told me how empowering the tour had been because he has always had a fear of water, so much so that he didn't even put his head under the water in the shower. He was so proud that he overcame the fear of the water, while having the time of his life. It was a very touching moment for me to know that I had played a part at a pivotal time in his life.”
In South Walton, standup paddle boarding seems custom-made for skimming across the area’s turquoise Gulf waters or exploring its rare dune lakes. And for many kids and adults who try it here, it’s a perfect sport to learn in an instant… and love for a lifetime.
For more information on South Walton standup paddle boarding lessons and tours go to WalcoEcoTours.com.
Modified: May 31, 2012 10:33 am