Paddleboarding’s Origins, Well, Kind Of…
An Editorial by Jamie Beckett
The sun is up, a blue expanse of clear skies stretches to the horizon, dotted by only the daintiest little white puffs of vapor. Spring is marching toward summer. The temperatures are up. The humidity is climbing. I find myself increasingly distracted by the view out my window, which makes it difficult to focus on the work piling up on my desk or the deadlines looming on the calendar.
I think it’s time I learned how to paddleboard.
For the uninitiated, paddleboarding is one of the fastest growing sports in the United States. It’s tranquil, meditative, offers the benefits of powerful restorative qualities, and best of all it’s almost impossible for a man of my advanced years to be killed doing it. Almost. That’s what they tell me anyway.
The paddleboard itself is a wonder of modern engineering. If you haven’t encountered one in person, perhaps I can help you out. Picture a surfboard. Fix that image in your mind. A surfboard. Now attach the name “paddleboard” to the surfboard you’re picturing. Voilà – you’ve passed the first hurdle to paddleboard nirvana. You can now identify a paddleboard even at a distance.
Because I’m a tireless researcher, it struck me as a good idea to find out where paddleboarding came from. It seems the origin of the sport came about thanks to two friends and competitive surfers named Crusty McKenna and Hani Moloko. After a particularly grueling competition on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii, it seems Crusty and Hani did what professional surfers do when they’re done with work – they ordered several rounds of drinks at a beachfront bar, then staggered outside to pharmaceutically enhance their personalities. Boys being boys, dares were issued, challenges were accepted, and within a matter of minutes Crusty and Hani were balancing atop their surfboards in the aquamarine pool of the Oahu Golden Beach Motel and Snack Bar.
It might have all ended there but for a curious quirk of fate that turned an inebriated night at the beach into an international sporting sensation. Tucked away in the Golden Beach Motel and Snack Bar was the one and only, Steve McSwarmy. Yes, that Steve McSwarmy. The former skateboard king who parlayed a short but brilliant career weaving his skateboard through traffic on the 405 in Los Angeles into a company that introduced and successfully marketed a full line of low-cost high-fashion apparel, a collection of genuine Vietnamese-built, fully biodegradable skateboard decks, and pioneered the field of personalized, faux-gold dental implants.
While searching for an ice machine, McSwarmy witnessed the giggling, drunken, revelry going on in the pool. Unfortunately, the ice machine is an amenity the Golden Beach Motel and Snack Bar does not enjoy. Frustrated by the futility of his search and no longer enthralled with the original series Hawaii 5-0 box set of VHS tapes he’d purchased from a street vendor, his keen marketing mind seized on the potential of what he originally termed, “stationary surfing.” Within minutes he’d sketched out a board design that was wider, longer, and more buoyant. His team put it into production immediately.
With weeks of beginning their initial marketing tests, it was McSwarmy himself who realized that if the activity was moved from the pool to an open body of water, more people would be attracted to the sport. As an added benefit, the risk of serious head injury from poolside impacts lowered his insurance premiums considerably.
And so it was that paddleboarding came to be. Which brings us right back to where we started. It’s a beautiful day, I’m far too distracted to do any truly productive work indoors, and there’s just enough room on my Visa card to fit a brand-spanking new paddle board on it. Combine all those variables with the fact that there are nearly 600 lakes within a short drive of my office and you can bet I’m not going to get a lot of work done this summer. I’ll be out paddleboarding.
Maybe I’ll even do some research into how waterside bars got started. Yeah, that sounds like a research project custom built for a paddleboarder in the 863!