Our quick furlough in Boracay

This is short story on how a stand-up paddleboard changed my life…

Post by Ceage Sotto

Renowned short story writer and playwright Agatha Christie once said “that the first time you do a thing is always exciting,” this is true when we were just young lads. Loose, care-free, and always eager to look forward to the next summer vacation.

Apathetic to adulthood responsibilities, our younger selves always pushed for new experiences, always looking for the next thrill. Then came graduation, a bittersweet end to the innocent and nonchalant attitude that brought us to binge drinking sessions with our college and high-school buddies.

Gone are the days of free spending, as you’re now required to pay bills, house rents, and of course, taxes. Not to mention the remainder of our college debt, I was fortunate to have a government scholarship, and of course the help of my folks to pay off academic expenses.

When the cloud of freedom suddenly becomes the fog of responsibility, you’re now stuck with a myriad of problems that require solutions. Not that I don’t welcome them, the first year after college was such an eye-opener that I had to take my life seriously.

Now, you’re suddenly dealing with monthly tabs, taxes, and a lot of adult stuff. Which for the most part is pretty dull and insipid. Honestly, it has been years since I’ve truly felt excited…

To cut the story short, I’m uninspired. Drained by the conundrums of adult life. I’m tired, I’m restless, and I’m dying to try something that I haven’t tried before.

The Unplanned Vacation

The only thing that’s keeping my sanity is my fiancée and my dream of having a family. Apart from both, life is pretty tough. We both badly needed a quick furlough, luckily it was granted when my fiancée decided to go on a short vacation on one of the Philippines’ most sought after tourist destinations, Boracay Island.

I was hesitant at first, but missing to discover something new is a crime that I’m not willing to take. For the greater good, I had to oblige.

The mysterious paddler on the shores of Boracay…

The mysterious paddler

When we arrived in Boracay’s shores, I was eager to find something that would quench my thirst for excitement. As my eyes wandered through the horizon, an uncommon sight suddenly piqued my curiosity.

From afar, it would certainly look like Jesus walking on water. I gasped a sigh of relief as if I knew this would be the cure to my ailing spirit. As the shadowy figure came closer to shore, I glimpsed on an expat standing over some sort of board with a paddle in his hands.

That’s when it hit me, I was thinking I might have seen it on YouTube… Of course! It was a stand-up paddleboard! I watched the paddler glide through the waves, smoothly riding over choppy waters, I was awestruck!

I was obviously smitten. Not only have I heard of SUP before (slang for stand-up paddleboard), but I’ve longed to try one. I come from a major southern metropolis in the Philippines, and my hometown has a plethora of beaches, but I haven’t seen a single person on a SUP board.

I rushed to the community center and asked where can I find one and the local guide told me to head to a shop near station 2 (Boracay is subdivided into three stations). Ecstatic, I arrived at the rental store, paid rent and was told to go back the next morning, 8 am sharp.

The person I asked was pretty honest, he told me the waves would be rough since a tropical storm is wreaking havoc on the northern region of the Philippines. Determined, I told him that it wouldn’t matter, I really had to hop in on one of the boards.

It’s as if, my vacation wouldn’t be complete without trying out the stand-up paddleboard…

The weather that day wasn't that cooperative to try the stand-up paddleboard

I tried to sleep that night, but the mere thought of trying something I’m not familiar with made it difficult to rest. I had mixed feelings, but for the most part, it was excitement that kept me at the end of the sheets.

After a quick breakfast the next morning I ecstatically headed to the beach. Finally, it’s time! I arrived 30 minutes earlier, greeted by strong winds and choppy waters. The guide arrived at exactly 8 am, he asked if I had any prior experience SUPping. I answered with a blank smile and said no, but I tried skimming boards before and they were very difficult.

Finally, I’m ready to learn the basics of SUP! Undeterred by the strong currents, I struggled to stay on the board. I ended up tired but was able to kneel and paddle my first strokes. It was overall a great experience but I wanted to add the icing on the cake. I wanted to stand up.

My instructor was very patient, he was there all along trying to teach me how to stand. His instructions were clear, place the paddle on the stand-up paddleboard and look on the horizon and try to stand up. I rehearsed for a couple of seconds and finally took the courage to do the challenging task.

The instructions were quite easy to understand, but I’m 5’11 and 202 pounds, obviously on the heavy side. At first, I was able to stand for a few seconds, but I did not last long. Disappointed and exhausted, I went to my fiancée and said to try it herself, she brushed off the suggestion knowing the waves are too rough at this time.

If life hits you hard, hit back harder…

My instructor demonstrating the basics of SUP on choppy waters

My morning session ended up with me unable to stand up. The stubbornness in me vowed to return the next day. I was defeated, but unbowed. I finally had the chance to try something different. For a moment I felt like the carefree college kid I once was.

Having a little smirk on my face, my partner noticed my enthusiasm, she told me to try again tomorrow. I agreed but told her to try it too. She was reluctant at first, but I was able to convince her that it is a worthwhile experience.

Thinking about what happened that morning, my mind wandered again. Surprised, that SUP has a shorter learning curb compared to other water-board sports. Skimboards, in particular, are hard to master, it took me a month to stand for a few seconds before an imminent wipeout.

To think that I was able to stand within hours means SUP is easier to learn. On the evening, I ate less, thinking that at least a couple of pounds would make it easier to stand up. Honestly, I don’t think it has any correlation to stand-up paddleboards, but I’m just wary of my second try.

I woke up ready for some paddleboard action. Resolute, I walked on the beachline with my partner for another glorious attempt. Favorably, the weather is 100 times better that day. The waters were calm, the sky was blue without any traces of storm clouds and whatsoever.

The moment of reckoning…

The weather the next day was 100 percent better

I came in ready to conquer my goal. This vacation turned out to be one of the best days of my life, I know it’s entirely an overstatement, but honestly, it’s an unforgettable adventure. I have been stuck on the 8 am to 4 pm lifestyle that I hardly don’t have any time for anything else.

I climbed on the board worried of failing, but losing wasn’t a big deal since the whole experience was already worth it. As I glanced back to my girlfriend, I told her to take some pictures and she gladly complied. I felt confident, so I mustered all of my strength to stand up. On the fifth try, I finally did it!

It was a euphoric moment and I couldn’t believe what just happened. From the shore, I could hear my girlfriend shouting “you’re the man!” The praise felt very good, I’m always thankful to have found her and despite the ups and downs of life she always stood by my side, regardless of all the negative things that we had to endure.

There was no denying that SUP brought so much joy in my life in such a short time. Like a kid, I strolled past a couple of people feeling entitled of the feat that I have just done. If you would have seen my face that day, I am certain that you’d laugh with how I tried to suppress my facial expressions.

The best feeling ever!

My fiancee enjoying the stand-up paddleboard

I went back to the shore and handed the paddle to my future wife. I sensed her excitement and like me, she also wanted to stand-up. After being briefed on what to do, she gladly hoped in the stand-up paddleboard and to my surprise, stood up within a minute of feeling out the board. I was startled to see her stand up, but at the same time, I was happy that she was able to do it too.

That morning, we exchanged turns and enjoyed the view. The short vacation was really a blessing in disguise. It was that moment I realized how amazing stand-up paddleboards are, it’s just unfortunate that it is too expensive to own one. Nonetheless, if we can, we would definitely buy a board in the future. For now, the whole new experience would suffice the need to have one since we still have other financial obligations to fulfill.

Since that day, I have always thought of getting two stand-up paddleboards for me and my partner. I actually think about it all the time, even at work, or while I’m lying down in my bed. Needless to say that I truly fell in love with the whole experience and of course with the stand-up paddleboard.

Till next time…

Finally I was able to stand-up