By Jade Johnston
Yesterday James and I had our first intro lesson in stand up paddle boarding. Stand up paddle boarding is a new sport which is really catching on fast in New Zealand at least, where you stand up on what looks like a giant surf board, and you can either paddle yourself around on flat water, or take it into the waves like a regular surf board. I got a really good deal on the lessons through the voucher website grabone.co.nz where you get half price deals which change every day.
After a short intro on land, we took our boards into the water. I chose a wider, shorter board for more stability (don’t want to get my hair wet!) and got onto our knees. After about 3 minutes of paddling on our knees, which was not enough time for me to get used to the idea of standing on a board which was floating in the water, the instructor showed us how to stand up properly. If it wasn’t for peer pressure, I would never have done it as I was terrified of it all. I managed to stand up though, despite my legs visibly shaking. I got my balance, and we started paddling around the bay. I actually got the hang of it quite easily, but didn’t want to get too cocky about it so as not to jinx myself. When we got to the end of the bay the instructor, Craig, showed us more advanced moves… like how to turn quickly if you are about to catch a wave. I did not try these moves as I was too terrified of falling in, but James gave it a shot. He fell in. I laughed.
In the end, I managed to get through the whole 90 minute lesson without getting my hair wet. Bonus! I think that paddle boarding is one of the water sports that I enjoy the most so far, but I don’t think I would do it in the waves…it would be more of a leisure thing for me. Since we were on the water, trying our hardest to keep our balance…there are no photos of us. So you will have to suffice with this photo I took off google images of some paddle boarders so you can get a idea of what we were doing.
The other water sport which I recently tried out (also due to a grabone voucher) was scuba diving. My friend Sam and I took advantage of the voucher deal the day before Christmas eve. We drove out to goat island marine reserve, which is about an hour north of Auckland and a place that is famous for having the friendliest fish in the world. This is because they used to feed the fish in the reserve, and of course, no fishing is permitted. They no longer feed the fish, but they still have no fear of humans. This makes is a really great place for scuba diving and snorkelling.
When we arrived at the dive centre we met our instructor (who was well fit, believe me…droool) and went into the classroom for our “lesson”. I have put lesson in quotation marks because it consisted of watching a 20 minute instructional video of how not to die, and then having us sign a waiver listing all the horrendous ways in which we could die. Awesome.
After the video was over, the instructor was like Ok guys…lets go to the ocean. I was not feeling prepared. At. All. We suited up, strapped cement blocks to our selves (yes…the girl who can’t swim got into the ocean wearing fucking weights around her waist….. smart right?), and attached our oxygen tanks. Luckily the wet suit and the inflatable buoyancy jacket thing made it easier to not drown as you could adjust your buoyancy to either sink or float.
We were taught how to equalize the pressure in our air space (so as not to explode our lungs….awesome right?), how to get the water out of our regulator (the thing that gives you air) if you drop it in the water, and other techniques important for not-death. Then we descended and began our underwater adventure. Breathing under the water is really strange. I can’t explain to you how strange it is really. Even though I was assured that the regulator was delivering exactly the right amount of oxygen, it doesn’t feel like real breathing and at times I needed to go to the surface just to gulp in some real air. It’s really cool being underneath the water, but at times it started to freak me out. Breathing in while underwater didn’t really scare me too badly but for some reason, seeing the bubbles go up in front of my mask as I exhaled freaked me right out. After descending about three metres, I started having trouble clearing my air spaces, and also started mildly freaking out about you know….being under water. So I had to go up a few times to rest in the real air. After a while, I decided to let the others go deeper, and just stay without the first metre or two of the surface.
In the marine reserve we saw heaps and heaps of massive snapper. They were really friendly, and came right up to us and even followed us around. But the coolest thing we saw was when we were nearing the shore and it was more shallow. I was sticking close to the instructor for two reasons: 1) I didn’t want to die and 2) He was really really good looking. Suddenly he motioned for me to look, I looked over and there was an eagle way inches away from me. I froze in what can only be described as pure joy and terror for what seemed like eternity, but was probably 30 seconds, and then swam away as fast as possible. After achieving what I decided was a safe distance, I just hovered there in the water, staring at this amazing creature. Eagle rays are slightly smaller than sting rays, but this one was a fully mature adult, and believe me, was big enough.
Enjoy this google image of an eagle ray.