When in Bora Bora, Stand Up and Paddle
In Zurich, where I now live, I frequently see these uber-fit gals and perfectly coiffed Swiss guys gliding across the Alpine waters of Lake Zurich, Walensee and Lac Leman on stand-up paddleboards. In the much warmer waters of Ponce Inlet, Florida, where I grew up, a friend of mine teaches stand-up paddleboard yoga, which has caught on like wildfire and includes occasional shark sightings during downward dog position. But since I’m neither a yogi nor a ripped Swiss man, I assumed this newfangled sport with a Hawaiian heritage wasn’t for me. And by “for me,” I mean “for lazy people.”
As usual, how wrong I was. Stand-up paddleboarding—offered for free at several resorts these days, including Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora—is remarkably easy. I had heard SUPing was a real core workout. At this point in the trip, my core was composed of red tuna in coconut milk, papaya-vanilla compote and copious amounts of sushi from the on-site Sunset Restaurant & Bar. Perhaps my core needed some working out.
So I signed up for a stand-up paddleboard lesson. The “lesson” involved a 45-second briefing from David Bonnevie at the Marine Activity Centre, for whom I had dozens of slightly neurotic questions, including “What do I do if I see a shark?” “Will I see humpback whales?” (they are often seen from the property’s exercise room), “Is the current too strong?” and “What about those sharks again?” I assumed David would be coming with me and we’d frolic with colourful marine animals together, like I did with French biologist Oliver Martin earlier. Before I got a single answer, David shoved me off into the great blue lagoon with a wide Tahitian smile and a melodic nana (“goodbye”). Fear of the ocean is simply not tolerated in Bora Bora. Scared of sharks? You must be from away. Worried about poisonous creatures? Surely you’re not an islander. From shore, David told me where to stand on the paddleboard (in the middle, of course), then he instructed me how to paddle, and then he retreated to his thatched hut. I didn’t see sharks, or whales, and the current was not too strong. I was alone with the deep sapphire sea and sky. I saw nothing but a million shades of blue. And it was positively sublime.