While many of you may know me as an artist, you may not know that I am also an ultra-distance prone paddleboarder. What is that you ask? Well, here’s a blog post to explain it to those of you who are not familiar with the sport.
On a prone paddleboard, the paddler lies face-down or kneels on a board and uses his or her arms in lieu of a blade. While more people are familiar with stand-up paddleboarding, prone paddleboarding came first and is also called “traditional paddleboarding”. I paddle 3-4 times a week all year around out of Marina Del Rey. I prefer to paddle solo, but I see a surprising number of people on the water, no matter what time of day or night I get on the ocean!
From Wikipedia, a bit of history:
Prone paddleboarding is a water sport in which participants are propelled by a swimming motion using their arms while lying or kneeling on a paddleboard in the ocean or other body of water. Paddleboarding is usually performed in the open ocean, with the participant paddling and surfing unbroken swells to cross between islands or journey from one coastal area to another.
Thomas Edward Blake is credited as the pioneer in paddleboard construction in the early 1930s. While restoring historic Hawaiian boards in 1926 for the Bernice P. Bishop Museum, Blake built a replica of the previously ignored olo surfboard ridden by ancient Hawaiian aliʻi (kings). He lightened his redwood replica (olo were traditionally made from wiliwili wood) by drilling it full of holes, which he then covered, thus creating the first hollow board, which led to creation of the modern paddleboard.
Paddleboards are divided by length into three classes: Stock, 14 Foot, and Unlimited. Stock boards are 12 ft 6 in long, and best for paddlers around 180 lb or less. Stock boards are easy to accelerate and fast in choppy water. But with their short waterline, they lack the calm water top speed of 14 feet or Unlimited boards (boards over 14’).
I was introduced to prone paddleboarding 20 years ago. While on an outrigger team, I saw a prone paddleboarder go by our 6-man boat and asked what that was. He told me ‘prone paddleboarding’ and shouted that I should call this guy named Joe who made good boards locally. Soon after, I called Joe Bark, got my new 14’ board and proceeded to spend my first weekend trying to stay up on my knees (an advanced skill). The person I had seen was paddling on their knees and since I knew nobody else who did this sport, I did not know you could paddle these boards lying down, but I learned soon enough!
My passion for the sport is about being on the open water. I just love the peace and quiet of a long ocean paddle. Being a relatively small creature on a very large body of water makes all my worries seem insignificant. Water time is my mood lifter! As I age in this sport, my speed slows, but my endurance and skill increases. Somewhat due to the pandemic, I am currently focused on solo circumnavigations around local islands in Southern California. As these adventures come to fruition, I will be updating the Adventures page on my website. Please follow along with me as I take myself and my boards to new and challenging waters!