Standing up to the challenge of adventure

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Stepping away from my comfort zone and learning something new and adventuresome excites and scares me.
Such mixed emotions washed over me as I walked onto the dock on Jekyll Island in early June preparing for my first stand-up paddleboard lesson.

Stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) is a sport that’s been growing in popularity for several years. Some folks engage in it simply as a fun activity, while others are more hardcore and competitive. SUP festivals, races and skill-based competitions have popped up as well.

It’s pretty simple—stand on a board and paddle your way across a body of water. Of course, there’s always the possibility of falling in. Learning how to maneuver, how to get back on the board, how to avoid the shallows and other crafts in the water takes some practice and skill.

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For me, my main goal on my first outing was not falling. Sure, I can swim and don’t mind getting hair and body wet, but the sight of a 61-year-old woman with bad knees flopping from the water to the board wouldn’t be a pretty sight.

John Krivec was our instructor for the afternoon and before I and colleague John Hewitt set foot on the boards, Krivec measured us, adjusted the paddles and asked if we wanted to wear the safety vests that were strapped to our boards. Since the water wasn’t too deep and we both are swimmers, we declined. He then proceeded to tell us how to go from kneeling to standing on the board, the proper stance, how to hold the paddle and how to stroke.

Krivec and his girlfriend Tara Holden started St. Simons Island Paddleboard in 2013 and offer instruction, day and night tours on St. Simons and Jekyll islands as well as paddleboards at their shop on St. Simons Island.

Originally from Roswell, Krivec moved to California and became a kayak and SUP guide at Laguna Beach. He had been in the IT field, but when the company he was working for went “belly up overnight,” Krivec decided that working in the outdoors doing what he loved might be a good alternative.

One man on board
The 35-year-old Krivec said his clientele includes children as young as 7, people who are in their 80s and physically challenged veterans.

“I love being outside,” said Krivec. “I always have. It’s fun seeing people enjoy something new, experience new things when they are on vacation.”

He said his goal is to ensure that customers have a good experience their first time on the board and will want to venture out again.

After Krivec made sure the equipment was properly adjusted to suit our size, it was time to put the boards in the water.

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I always thought that being a New Yorker who rode the subways for several years without having to hold onto a strap or pole that I would be a natural at balancing myself on a paddleboard. On this Jekyll Island excursion my knees held up fine as I rose to a standing position, however, I could feel my legs shaking as I kept readjusting myself to maintain my balance.

The Intracoastal Waterway that we explored was a fairly calm body of water except when a watercraft passed and the waters got a little choppy.

We paddled our way past beautiful vessels at a marina, glided under a bridge and tried to spot the dolphins that Krivec kept telling us were off to our right or left. I got into a bit of trouble with poor maneuvering and bumped against one of the yachts, but Krivec speedily came to my rescue telling me how to paddle away from the dicey situation.

Hewitt, the chief operating officer at The Champion, made a spectacular save at one point when he got wobbly and almost fell in. Then it happen. He fell in.

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All those years riding the subway must have paid off. I did not fall. However, I did have a thoroughly fun and exhilarating experience. SUP is definitely an activity that I will do again.

For more information on St. Simons Island Paddleboard tours and lessons, go to www.ssisup.com.

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