When a friend texts me something out of blue like, “I want to try paddle boarding,” I can’t help but jump all over it. I had seen a Facebook event for weekly sessions, and scrolled through my screenshots to find the times. Conveniently, Maine Bound Adventure Center was hosting an event Wednesday, during a time we both had off of work. I hoped Quincie wasn’t speaking hypothetically.
I had tried standup paddle boarding a few times, but to be perfectly honest, most of them with a confidence encouraged by a slight buzz and tropical water (thank you, Spring Break in Mexico). Not anything like the Stillwater River in Orono, Maine.
We drove to the Steam Plant Parking Lot on the Umaine Campus. It was as easy as walking over to the guy in the Maine Bound t-shirt (you couldn’t miss him, he was standing next to the trailer full of paddle boards). He explained all we needed to do was sign a waiver and pay five bucks. In the fine print, I read something along the lines of, “comfortable” or “familiar” with using a SUP. I felt pretty sure than neither of us qualified as comfortable, but scribbled my name anyway and tried to look like I knew what I was doing. Shortly after, he handed me a board, which I completely knocked over as I was trying to balance it up against me. He also said he needed to get me a “PFD,” and I nodded my head nonchalantly, though I really had no idea it was a life jacket he was grabbing me.
We then carried our boards down to the landing (they surprisingly weren’t heavy), and stuck the board in “fin first” as instructed, so as to not scrape it on the shallow part. We managed to push out and even to stand up fairly easily. Somebody else told us to place both hands on, then both feet on, so you’re crouched on all-fours. We were also reminded to stand in the center of the board, bend our knees slightly, and use the paddle as a “backwards spoon.” It was a totally judgement-free zone, and everyone was just there to have a good time.
There were about five others in the water with us, and they were able to move down stream with ease, whereas Quincie and I were spinning ourselves in circles and bumping into one another. It wasn’t until someone pointed out that both of us were facing backwards on our boards that we realized why we couldn’t steer. Kinda hard to play that one off.
Once we got turned around (with the fin in the back) and paddling, it was stunning. Truly. You forget how much natural beauty there is right in your backyard. We paddled away from the landing and were completely surrounding by a scenery of dense woods, birds chirping, and the mysteriousness of river bends. It wasn’t shaky like you may be imagining, and the water was actually very easy to navigate. We could aim to where we wanted to go, turn around, sit down and stand up comfortably. Though I will admit, the cool yoga move I attempted came out more like a Pinterest fail. But hey- I managed to not fall in.
On Facebook, it says that it’s $5 for an hour rental, but when we returned to the landing, the staff member told us that they were shooting for more around half-hour rentals, due to the high demand. I would just be clear before paddling away what time they want you back. If you don’t have a waterproof watch or your sun-dial isn’t spot on, just use your best judgement or try not to wander too far.
According to the Facebook event, they’ll be doing this every Wednesday until August 22nd! However, the man I spoke with said that they would probably go into the Fall. Get there right at 3 o’clock or even a little before, since it’s first come first serve, and many people come in groups of three or four. You may want to bring something to do if you have to wait, but it’ll be worth it.
Some had bathing suits on, others wore shorts, some barefoot, some with rock shoes. You really can’t go wrong, I just don’t recommend taking your phone with you. Oh, and don’t worry. The boards are actually very stable, and for many people, it’s their first time trying it. Trust me, if we can do it, anyone can.