Sitting here this afternoon, checking out the surf forecast on the computer for the upcoming week, I found myself looking for other water activities to keep me occupied. (The winter surfing season here in Cocoa Beach has been anything but stellar.) Then I remembered an experience I had back in October of 2008. With no experience at paddleboarding, I borrowed a twelve-foot Bark paddleboard from a friend, with the intention of competing in a race on the Indian River Lagoon that was scheduled for later that month. I took the board out to the Cape Shores Marina in Cocoa Beach to try this new and growing sport. After about five minutes on the river, I was hit from behind by something enormous that lifted the paddleboard three feet into the air. I held on for dear life and, looking back, noticed a two-foot mound of water fifteen feet behind me. I wasn’t sure if it was a manatee, a gator, or a shark. What I did know was where the shore was and I quickly found myself out of the water. The next few days, my training on the paddleboard consisted of reading about techniques of the sport.
The following week, I took that scare and found myself back in the river paddling in the Cocoa Beach Surf Museum’s C2C 22-Mile Paddleboard Race. As I floated out at the starting line, I remembered reading that paddleboarding is the endurance king of all water sports. The horn sounded. Within a half-hour, the more experienced paddlers were so far ahead, I could no longer see them.
I was in for a struggle that day, but there were positives. It was a beautiful day on the river in Cocoa Beach, the only fins I saw were those belonging to dolphins, and the halfway point 11-mile marker was a welcomed relief. The experience gave me a deeper appreciation for all those who are active on the water on anything other than a surfboard.
A month later, I had the privilege to meet Justin Debree at the Cocoa Beach Surf Museum for a Key to the City award ceremony. Justin, a Cocoa Beach resident, set a world record in June 2008, by paddleboarding 420 miles from Key Biscayne, FL, to St. Mary’s, GA. He paddled the whole distance without a support boat and carried all he would consume in a backpack. Justin made the trip to raise funds and awareness for the World Skin Cancer Foundation. The Cocoa Beach Surf Museum is proud to display the paddleboard Justin used for this world-record paddle. It’s a lot larger than the twelve-foot Bark paddleboard I first used.
The CBSM sponsors several paddleboarding events throughout the year. The Florida State Paddleboard Championship will be held on Saturday, April 11, during the Ron Jon Easter Surf Festival. And in October, paddlers will enjoy the third annual C2C 22-Mile Paddleboard Race, the longest race for paddleboarders in the lower 48 states.
The Cocoa Beach Surf Museum is open from 8 a.m. to sunset seven days a week with guided tours available. For more information, see www.cocoabeachsurfmuseum.org