In 2003 I was living in the East Bay of San Francisco, and I was looking for my first prone paddleboard, even though I had never paddled one. Nobody I knew had one; no surf shops sold them locally, or even knew what they were. The surfers I knew at the time all had roughly the same question… “Why would you want to drag yourself around the ocean with your arms, and not catch waves?”
These were my answers: Because I lived over an hour from the beach, but near a body of water—the Carquinez Straight. Because I worked a Monday-through-Friday 9-to-5 kind of job, and the waves didn’t always show up on the weekends, when I could get to the beach. Because my desk job was making me fat, and I needed a workout, and I dislike gyms. Because I wasn’t getting enough water time. A prone paddleboard seemed like the solution to these problems.
I started the hunt, and quickly got discouraged. Not much was online, in the way of boards or even information. In places where beach culture was prevalent (SoCal, Florida, Hawaii) there were bound to be boards for sale, but… how to get at them? I called a guy I barely knew, in Santa Cruz… Zach Wormhoudt. Told him I was looking for a used paddleboard. He said there were a few annual races in Santa Cruz and that would be a good place to look. A few weeks later, I was standing on the beach in Capitola next to Zach—at the finish line of the annual underground Pier to Pier Race—and he said “You need to meet Dave King. He might have a board for sale. C’mon, I’ll introduce you.”
Big Dave King towered over me. He’s somewhere around six-foot-nine, and stacked with muscle. But he also has a broad, perfect smile and an immediately obvious aloha vibe, and we were talking prone boards. He said “Follow me to my house, I have a couple of boards for sale.” Twenty minutes later we were at Dave’s house, checking out his quiver of prone and SUP boards—there were at least five of them—racked neatly on the side of his garage. He pointed to the two prone that were for sale, and suggested that I take them for a spin. That was easy because Dave lives two houses from the beach. I figured he’d hit the water with me but he said “I’ve got to go show a house to a client. You go for a paddle and try them out, take any of them. Just put em back on the rack when you’re done. I’ll be back in an hour if you want to talk some more.”
I was kind of blown away. This guy just met me, and gave me access to an entire quiver of very expensive and sexy looking paddleboards, and said, basically “Have fun, see ya in a while.” It was like that time my dad said “Here’s the keys to the Corvette. Drive her hard and fast.” Except that never actually happened. So, I pulled on surf trunks and walked one of Dave’s boards down to the sand. I paddled out, about half of a mile beyond the small beach break, and I was instantly hooked.
Before Dave returned, I had paddled the two ‘for sale’ prone boards, and made a trip to the nearest ATM and back. Nervously, I asked “How much for the Richmond?” It was an 18’10” unlimited, seafoam green and in very good condition. It had a handmade teak bridge under the tiller. I was already in love with it. Dave said “I’d like to get $1000 for it.” I started pulling bills out of my pocket, knowing I was going to come up short. Between the money I had brought with me, and the extra $300 I got from the machine, I had exactly $900 in cash. I offered it to him, feeling bad that I was haggling with this guy who had been so nice to me. But he said “Nine hundred is cool.” I strapped her to my car, swapped numbers with Dave, and said I’d be back in town to paddle with him sometime. I drove home feeling like I had just embarked on an awesome adventure, even though I didn’t know where the destination was.
Many of us who are paddlers are also surfers, and surfing has it’s own unique character. You’ve got your surf friends—your ‘crew’—and a few familiar faces at your local break, but nobody is really looking to recruit more surf pals. Everybody has game face on when the waves get good. And that’s fine.
But my introduction to paddleboarding showed me that there is this whole other world of ocean enthusiasts… many of them legit watermen and big-wave badasses, but they are all down to share the stoke with anyone who loves the ocean as much as they do, even the beginners. If you’re willing to log miles, burn your arms up and tax your rotator cuffs in the name of more water time, you probably love the ocean, too. In the years since my transaction with Dave, the people I’ve met in the paddleboarding community—the truly great friends I’ve made—never cease to amaze and stoke me. No attitudes, no hassles, no game face… just good people who love being in the ocean.
One of those guys is Josh Pederson, and some more of them are the Ghostryders Waterman’s Club in Santa Cruz. Over the years we’ve paddled a lot of miles together, and shared a lot of laughs and beverages after those miles. Paddleboarding has grown up a lot; SUP has exploded and brought an entire new generation of water-people to the shore, and an industry has emerged. But sometimes, just like in 2003, it’s just not that easy to find the exact board you’re looking for, or the price you want to pay.
Recently, Josh told me about his plan to change that, to build a new component into the paddleboard community. At www.tradepaddleboards.com, the goal is to revolutionize the way used boards are bought, sold, and shipped in the entire US; to make it easier and more efficient for buyers to find boards, for sellers to find buyers, and for boards to reach their destinations.
Josh invited me to join him on this revolutionary adventure. And just like that day at Big Dave’s house, I was immediately hooked, ready to jump in feet first and get real wet. Who knows where this will go? Lets find out.