Paddle Boarding the Finley River Ozark MO

So paddle boarding is something I would have never thought to attempt given my graceless exits from kayaks and canoes. Standing and mounting or dismounting a floating device is always a challenge for this girl.  But, Darby wanted to paddle board back in June for her birthday and Pomme de Terre, where we had her party, was busy enough to buck me out of a kayak, let alone off a paddle board.  Then an intern at work mentioned Show Me SUP (Stand Up Paddle boarding) out of Ozark and the great time he had floating with TJ and company in July.  So, I figured I’d give it a try and take Darby out for a sunset paddle this last Tuesday.

TJ, the owner of Show Me SUP, met up with us at the small boat dock in the Finley River Park in Ozark, MO right off Jackson Street.  From Springfield it’s only a 30 minute drive, so not bad.  In August, 6:00 p.m. is still pretty early and it was warm-about 94 degrees. He gave us a general overview of paddle boarding and what to expect, how long the trip would take and what we might encounter.  I’m generally not an anxious person and I’m a pretty strong swimmer so when the physical reality of what I was about to attempt rolled around and I was in the water getting ready to actually mount a paddle board, I was feeling pretty good….

Being first timers and less lean than other people, TJ gave Darby and I bigger paddle boards. They were wider and longer than the ones used by our more experienced cohorts who were joining us for their Tuesday date night.  On my knees, floating on the water, my heart finally pounding in my throat-TJ began to give me instructions on how to bring my dominant right leg up into more of a half kneel with the goal being to rise up on two feet while using the paddle as a “cane” so to speak.  I couldn’t do it.  My leg was tired from working all day and I had to adjust the paddle and lay it down to get that darn knee up into position with my foot next to the handle in the very center of the board.  Then came the even harder task of drawing the other knee and foot up and into a squatting position before finally coming up to stand with quaking knees and trembling thighs using the paddle for support all the way. I was very glad I had taken my blood pressure medicine that day as my adrenaline spiked into overload and I stood tall on the paddleboard (knees slightly bent) looking out over the river.  TJ commented that it’s better to look forward than down at your board as he left me to gain my composure while paddling over and guiding Darby to her feet.  In the end, we gained our feet, didn’t fall and began to feel more comfortable about actually using the paddle as more than a support for our quivering legs.

Then came the fun part; paddling up the Finley while standing and balancing on the paddle board.  TJ guided us up river to a little gravel bar where we could dismount and give our feet a break.  TJ mentioned that though he recommends wearing river shoes on the Finley, your feet will actually feel better if you can manage to paddle board barefoot.  Darby was able to take off her shoes and she much preferred it.  The small muscles of bare feet respond better to the balancing act they are attempting.  As tired as my feet and legs were, I spent the rest of the trip either on my knees or on my rear, paddling like I would a canoe.  I could definitely see that had I come into this in the morning fresh without 10,000+ steps under my belt already I would have been able to stand much longer.  Despite not standing for more than 20 minutes or so, I was extremely proud of the fact that I had actually done it; stood up and learned to paddleboard on a calm river.

The whole experience took about 2 hours and 15 minutes, watching wildlife and paddling around obstacles just as you would in a kayak or canoe.  Obviously, the chance to fall in and get wet is much higher during this activity, but neither Darby nor I fell off our boards which was a definite plus in my book.  TJ was a great teacher, calm and professional though I will also say that I am a teachable person as is Darby.  Going into this experience knowing you may get wet, expecting the unexpected and staying flexible (both mind and body) is the best way to have a great time.  So get out there folks and see what Show Me SUP has to offer.

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