SUPIA is the Stand Up Paddleboard Industry Association and it is doing incredible things to bring all facets of the industry together from manufacturers to reps to service providers to retailers and everything in between. Last year they started a Youth Days program. It is a free event to give kids who wouldn’t normally have the opportunity the chance to learn to paddleboard. The program is focused on safety and fun but varies wildly from there on.
Last year a handful of shops across the country participated on a weekend in mid-May. Over 300 kids got to try out paddling that weekend. We took a pass because the water was still pretty cold. But this year they extended the program to cover the whole month of June. Shops got to pick their day(s) in June to host the event(s) and SUPIA provided a lot of help with ideas about who to invite, how to structure the day, sample press releases, and more. The expectation is that the number of kids involved this year will be more than double that of last year.
Sunday June 14 was our day of choice and we worked with Playing All the Way to round up the kids for us. This is a non-profit organization that provides opportunities for families to play. It sounds simple, but the benefits of playing together are very far reaching. Creating shared memories around happy, fun times has many positive benefits. Playing leads to higher self-esteem and a deeper sense of belonging, higher productivity for both kids and adults, it’s good for overall physical and mental health, it builds social bonds, and it can help heal broken relationships.
Because Neverbored loves to be part of the solution and not part of the problem, we headed out to play. After a safety briefing and some on land instruction, we got the kids out on the water one at a time. Once everyone was standing and paddling around it was interesting to watch the way things unfolded. One of the biggest surprises to me since starting this business has been how much kids love paddling. But it occurred to me that it’s not necessarily the paddleboarding that they love so much, it’s the freedom that paddleboarding represents. I’m sure part of it is the paddling and the idea that they are walking on water, but I think it’s more like the first time you get to drive your own bumper car. You get to take that car where you want, how you want. While we kept everyone together and gave them basic instruction, we threw our pre-planned activities out the window and followed the lead of what the kids wanted to do. After all it was their day.
Kids LOVE jumping off of the paddleboard. We saw acrobatics on and off the board, a little bit of friendly jousting, lounging on the board with dangling feet in the water, and what turned out to be a heated game of Marco Polo. We asked the kids if they wanted to do some races, games, go for a paddle, and they said “can we just swim?” Ok. They found their own ways to have fun on and around the boards. One girl laid down on her board and started paddling with her hands in the water. Two girls got on the same board and towed the other board behind them. One boy flipped over his board and swam to shore towing it (totally his choice…two of us tried to straighten it out for him and he declined any offers of help….it was his thing)
Part of the beauty of paddleboarding is that it is so versatile. There are a million ways to have fun on them. And part of the beauty of kids is their lack of preconceived notions of how things are supposed to be done. They see everything through fresh eyes and are not jaded by past experiences. Almost all of them were easily doing pivot turns before we got off of the water. Most adults hesitate to try pivot turns at the beginning because they have all of these preconceptions…they don’t want to get wet. Or they don’t want to look stupid.
They all learned how to paddle and covered a fair amount of ground getting to and from their swimming spot. And they all had a good time that they can associate with their paddleboarding experience. By the end of the session I had forgotten which kids came together because they were all interacting like old friends. When all of the girls wanted to play Marco Polo, they discussed whether they should invite the boys to play too. They did invite them. But I’m sure the girls’ parents would be happy to know that they asked.
I’m pretty sure that we had as much fun as the kids did. And we probably learned as much. When I talked to Nicky from Playing All the Way after the paddle I told her I felt a little bad because we didn’t do any of the activities we set out to do. She assured me that what the kids want more than anything is free time. With such heavily scheduled lives, this is lacking for them and this is what they crave. Then I thought about it and realized that that’s what most of us want and that’s what paddling represents to many of us. Freedom. Freedom from our daily responsibilities, the therapeutic effects of the water, shedding the daily grind, and just being ourselves.
So thank you to SUPIA, Playing All the Way, and the fantastic kids that we worked with on Sunday for reminding us what it’s all about.
Also a special thanks to Howard and Spenser Powell whose help made the day possible and fun! And to mom who is a huge part of Neverbored and a tremendous help each and every day…and she provides snacks and Del’s!