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Monday, June 11, 2018

Setting Goals

Yesterday I taught a Stand Up Paddleboard class. I have only been teaching SUP about 4 years, and I have to say I really enjoy it. It is a very different experience than kayaking. I was actually surprised to be teaching yesterday at all, I am pretty obsessed with watching the enrollment on my classes and yesterdays SUP class was empty right up until Thursday night or Friday morning. I thought the class would cancel. But come Friday afternoon I had a participant. But just one.

A lot of times it doesn't make financial sense to run a class with just one student, but in a case like this with very little set up time, I would imagine we break even. I am always happy to teach, particularly a fun class like this.

Yesterdays class was actually the first SUP class of the year for me, and so before hand I took some time to refresh myself not he curriculum and then I started thinking about my goal for the day. I always start a class by a sling that of my students. What is your goal for the day? What brought you to my class? For a lot of people it is just something fun to do, but in reality the answers can be many and varied. Not for SUP specifically but for any class, it may be a lead into a bigger outdoor outing, or it may be something along the lines of I am missing this skill in my personal skillset. I want to know what those needs are before the class so I can make sure I give you what you need, or are looking for.

Yesterdays participant was really just wanting to try something new. Simple. As we got onto the boards I realized she had some slight mobility issues with her right knee, and it made the transition from sitting to standing on the board difficult. We spent about three quarters of the class trying to get her to a point where she could move that knee in a manner to get her from sitting or kneeling to standing. In the process she got proficient in turning and even a good forward stroke. We practiced getting back onto the board after she fell off in the process of trying to stand. She had a great attitude and despite not being able to stand up, she was having fun.

We talked more about goals, and I realized that for both the student and myself it isn't so much about choosing a goal, it is about defining success. What does success look like in any given situation? She made it clear that her definition of success was having a good time, something she felt she had already accomplished. I too had already accomplished my goal for the day, which was to have a nice day on the water. Success doesn't require lofty goals.

As I thought about her problem I knew I really wanted to get her standing on the board. I thought about something one of my friends said about our current fleet of boards, she didn't think they were very stable. I thought about what other more experienced SUP instructors would do in the situation. There's a line from a Gene Hackman movie - When I get in jam, I like to think of a guy smarter than me. And I think "what would he do?" So I paddled along and realized I needed to get her on a bigger and more stable board. I needed to give it one more shot to get her standing. The board I was paddling was an older board that while only 6 inches longer was a bit more stable than her board. But back in my storage container - which is at the lake we were paddling on - we had an 11 foot board. We headed back to where we started and I went and grabbed the other board. I quickly switched the fin to the new board and attached her leash to it as well. Then I thought of my friend who is a better SUP paddler than me, and I thought what would she do? I pulled her board out into about 2 feet of water, and straddled the front of it, making it more stable. With the wider, longer board and me supporting it she was able to make the transition to standing. I then gently got off the board and allowed her to paddle away. I quickly got onto my board and followed her.

She left the course ecstatic. Literally dancing on air, with her definition of a successful day extremely elevated. I guess you could say the moral of the story is to set your goals high, but honestly I think it is to have a good time, and work hard to give others a good experience.


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