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June 10, 2017 - TCO

Summer bucket list: Learn a new aqua-tivity

With more than 10,000 lakes as well as rivers and reservoirs, Minnesota’s landscape features a whole lotta wet. The green-to-blue hues are lovely to look at, and many of us are nearly as comfortable boating through a body of water as we are driving in a car. And one of the best things about living in a state with an excess of H2O? The watersports! Whether you’re paddling or being pulled, activities in and on the water abound.

New to this scene? Or maybe you haven’t jumped the wake since you were a kid. We’re ready to wipe out your hesitation and convince you to leave dry land. Don’t have the gear, the vessel, the courage? More and more companies now offer lessons and rentals, so lack of a boat or other equipment is a non-issue. Even if you haven’t tried a particular sport, chances are you can find someone who has. In fact, all you really need in order to learn a watersport is persistence, a sense of humor, and a towel.

Here are four fun options that cover sit-down to surf’s up:

Kayaking

Kayaking involves maneuvering a lightweight, streamlined craft through the water with a double-ended paddle while seated. Can be done solo or with a partner.

  • Exertion: Varies. You can choose a leisurely paddle speed which won’t get you very far but will encourage relaxation, or you can dig in, give your arms, shoulders, back and core a fairly vigorous workout, and cross a decent distance quickly.
  • Stability: Medium. Embarking and disembarking cause the most potential for a flip into the water.
  • Wetness potential: Low-to-medium. You’ll likely splash back on yourself a bit as you get the hang of paddling.

Paddleboarding

Paddleboarding (or stand-up paddling) is simply standing (or kneeling) upon an oversized surfboard and navigating the water with a long paddle. Designed to be longer and wider for stability, paddleboards can also be used to surf. Although not in Minnesota. At least, not that we know of.

  • Exertion: Your choice. You can gently push yourself through the water, hang out and float, try a little yoga if you’re feeling balanced. Or you can brace for the burn, speed up your rhythm, and engage just about every muscle in your body (really!).
  • Stability: Varies. Wobbly novices may have trouble mounting, standing or shifting till they get the hang of the stance. Once you’re rock solid, you can potentially rock a headstand.
  • Wetness potential: Low-to-high. Experienced paddlers can set out in dry clothes and keep them that way; others may swim as much as they stand.

Wakeboarding

For those of you lucky to have access to a boat and some open water this summer, here’s a good one to try. Wakeboarding is kind of like snowboarding. But on water instead of snow. And while being towed behind a powerful speedboat. Also, the “terrain” can shift unexpectedly due to other boats and their wake, making every ride an adventure!

  • Exertion: Medium-to-high. Unlike snowboarding, which starts from a standing position, you need to use your arms, shoulders and core to power yourself up and out of the water. Once up, you’re still working those muscles but it feels more like fun so you forget till the stiffness sets in hours later.
  • Stability: Up-for-grabs. Till you learn how to get up and go, you’re at the mercy of your strength and balance, the waves and wind, and, of course, your driver. But once these points align, you’ll likely be in for a ride that can be as long and challenging as your skills make it.
  • Wetness potential: Guaranteed.

Wakesurfing

Wakesurfing is a hot hybrid sport that literally lets you surf a boat’s wake, rope-free. You’ll still be pulled up holding a rope (which is shorter, so you’re closer to the boat), but once you’re up, you drop it, edge into the wake and ride as long as you want — or can. Fans love the freedom of not being “attached” to a boat.  Fun fact: Boat speed is actually a little bit slower than while wakeboarding as all you need is the wake, not the constant towage.

  • Exertion: Medium. Riders say once you get up and into the groove, wakesurfing can actually be a bit less strenuous than wakeboarding.
  • Stability: Depends. Once you’ve figured out foot position and shift, you’ll be set to surf as long as there’s a wake.
  • Wetness potential: Head-to-toe. Have fun!

Boating, waterskiing and jetskiing are always great ways to get out and enjoy our lakes, but we encourage you to shake things up and add “learn a new watersport” to your list of things to do this summer. Please remember to make safety a priority by heeding your instructor’s guidance, always wearing a PFD (personal floatation device) and slathering on enough sunscreen!