SUP the North Shore... of Mercer Island, Washington
I’ve never been one of those, “get up at 5:30 a.m. and go to the gym” kind of guys. I guess it’s because the early morning gym crowd always seems in a bit of a rush to get in, get done and get out, and I prefer to enjoy my exercise. But when a friend asked me if I wanted to go paddling with some buddies before work, I thought, ‘Sure. Why not?’ There was something about the idea of being out on the water with friends early in the morning that just seemed like way more fun than lifting weights by myself.
I got into stand up Stand Up Paddle Boarding (SUP) about four years ago. Before that, my entire life revolved around my other favorite sport, Skiing. But without a summer sport to pursue, I began to realize I was a little out of balance physically; Almost none of the sports I’ve chosen over my lifetime use the upper body. With that in mind, I figured I would give SUP a try after a recommendation from a friend who also needed something to do in the summer to stay in shape. The first time I stood on a board and put my paddle in the water, I was hooked.
The number of people Stand Up Paddling has grown a ton in the last few years, especially on lakes and rivers. I’ve even heard some sources say it’s the world’s fastest-growing sport. And while Seattle might not be known for our sunny, warm, Southern California weather, the city is literally surrounded by water; salt water to the west and freshwater lakes in almost every other direction. Once spring hits, our flannel shirts come off and Seattleites become a water-loving people.
There are usually at least six of us who meet at the north end of Mercer Island on Lake Washington. Mercer Island is essentially a suburb of Seattle about four miles due east of downtown, smack in the middle of the lake. Twice a week before work we meet up for a five-and-a-half-mile, hour-long, out-and-back-paddle around the north end of the island.
To me, the best part about paddling in the morning is that you really feel removed from everything stressful in your life. You don’t have to think about traffic, or sitting at your desk at work, or what meeting you are going to later. It’s quiet, the water is generally calm, and you’re with friends. The contrasting views of Mount Rainier, high-rise buildings, tall evergreens, highway bridges and wildlife —including Bald Eagles — are pretty amazing, and there’s always a GoPro or two on hand to capture it all.
Sometimes we talk the whole time, sometimes we do interval training, and other times we just paddle in silence and breathe it all in, feeling lucky to be able to get out and enjoy this beautiful place where we live. And if we time it just right and the weather cooperates, we can be treated to an awesome sunrise.
Just like a morning run or circuit in the gym, stand up paddling is totally doable before work. If you have a body of water near your home or office, I suggest you give it a shot. And for anyone in the Seattle area, feel free to join us in the mornings on the North End of Mercer Island. We should be pretty easy to spot.
Photos by Monster and Sea.