Last year I decided to take up road biking and what happened next might surprise you.
Proper cadence, paceline etiquette, bike maintenance, and drafting are just a few things I’ve learned from my friend and ride leader, Clay Howard. One evening late last fall after a typical 30-mile ride and a few beers, I was laughing to the point of tears – I had just met Clay’s wife, Betsy.
Her stories of their courtship, mishaps, and life as a military couple were so funny I couldn’t help thinking that these two should write a Netflix comedy series.
Clay had been riding road bikes and leading group rides for 3 years, all because Betsy insisted he “get out of the house and find a hobby.” Because he’s a smart guy, he did what she said and lost 87 pounds in the process.
But when Clay was out riding three to four times a week, racking up miles and Strava KOMs, there was always a piece of him that wished Betsy could be there.
Fifteen years of rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, and scoliosis, had left Betsy with a walking stick and little feeling from the waist down. Activities like riding a bike and hiking had become so painful that she simply had to stop. She filled her time with other hobbies like beading, jewelry design, and spending time with her dogs, Sophie and Ollie. But not being able to get outside was taking a toll.
When Clay learned I was a SUP instructor and expressed interest in learning the sport, I jumped at the chance to repay him for teaching me how to safely road bike. But when he asked if I could teach Betsy, too, my mind raced. Initially, I thought there was no way. If she couldn’t balance, how could I teach her to stand up paddle? Then I remembered something – Hala makes a seat for their boards!
The more I thought about it, the more I knew this could be a real option for getting Betsy outside and enjoying nature again. Unlike kayaks that are heavy with rounded, wobbly hulls, Hala inflatables are lightweight, stable, and easy to get on and off of. So, I ordered the seat, borrowed a kayak paddle, and went to work designing an adaptive lesson plan.
I caught up with Betsy this week for a post-season interview about learning to paddle.
Tell us about your first time out on the water.
My first-time paddle boarding was a little nerve-racking. I had never done anything like it before. Once Maria went through the basic instructions, like how to hold the paddle and how to maneuver the board, I realized I was in control. The Hala board is easy to maneuver and the seat is very comfortable.
What attracted you to this sport?
I was first attracted to paddle boarding after seeing pictures of my good friend Maria paddling with her dogs. I love dogs, and the thought of being able to take my dog Sophie paddle boarding with my husband Clay and I was amazing. When we talked with Maria about options and she told us about the seats Hala makes to connect to their boards, I thought, “Hey, I might be able to do this.” Being out on the water is so relaxing for me. It’s just you, your family, the dogs, and your board.
Have you tried other outdoor activities?
I’ve tried bike riding in the past but because of my balance issues and neuropathy from my waist down, I couldn’t keep my feet on the pedals. This also makes it difficult to take walks. I didn’t think there was any other sport I could do.
What are your goals and plans for next season?
For 2019, I plan to do more paddle boarding, continue to improve my skills, and hopefully inspire others. Even if you’ve never considered paddle boarding, I encourage you to give it a try. You don’t have to stand up to paddle board; you can sit!
Anything else you’d like to share about your experiences paddling?
Thanks, Hala, not only for making an amazing paddle board but also for making a great seat that allows people with limited abilities to sit down and paddle. And thanks, Maria Schultz, for your amazing teaching abilities and patience, and for always wanting to go paddle boarding. You have gone above and beyond in making my world a better place. Because of you, Clay, Sophie, and I can enjoy paddle boarding and being outside together. For me, paddle boarding is amazing, and I love it!