Paddleboarding balances fun and exercise

Kevin and Martha O'Keefe, who are both nurses at Upstate University Hospital, can often be found on paddleboards in Skaneateles Lake in the summertime. Their two young children like to come along, too. (PHOTO BY ROBERT MESCAVAGE)

Kevin and Martha O’Keefe, both nurses at Upstate University Hospital, can often be found on paddleboards in Skaneateles Lake in the summertime. Their two young children like to come along, too. (PHOTO BY ROBERT MESCAVAGE)

BY JIM HOWE

Kevin O’Keefe was intrigued when he saw a man and a woman standing on boards on Skaneateles Lake. Soon afterward he read about a paddleboard shop that gave lessons.

“My wife and I had a lesson and fell in love with it from there,” O’Keefe said.

The two Upstate University Hospital nurses, both in their mid-40s, became stand-up paddleboarders, something that has given them a lot of fun and exercise around the Finger Lakes and beyond. Their 11 foot, 6 inch paddleboards resemble surfboards propelled by long paddles.

“A lot of people say they’d like to try it. And many people say it seems like you’d have to have a lot of balance to do that. But it’s deceivingly easy,” said O’Keefe, who works in hematology/oncology at the downtown campus.

“It was a lot easier than it looked,” his wife, Martha, agreed. She works part time in the pre- and post-anesthesia care unit at the downtown campus.

Momentum helps keep you balanced, O’Keefe explained. “It’s kind of like a bicycle — you don’t just sit on a bicycle with your feet off the ground and not move. You’re paddling, so using the paddle will increase your balance.”

While the O’Keefes took up paddleboarding mostly as a leisure activity they could do together, “it serves the purpose of a good workout if you want it to,” said O’Keefe, who has also competed in races.

Their hobby now includes their children, Cathleen, 9, who can paddle by herself, and James, 5, who just goes along for the ride. Everyone wears life jackets, and the kids enjoy jumping into the water and climbing back onto the boards.

They go out for about an hour every couple of weeks in the summertime, usually on Skaneateles Lake, which is an easy drive from their Camillus home.

Martha O’Keefe gives this advice to people who ask her about paddleboarding: “Definitely try it, but rent a paddleboard a few times before they think about buying one. It’s easier than it looks, and it’s a lot of fun. We’ve met a lot of nice people through paddleboarding.”

Interested in paddleboarding?

Paddleboards come in different sizes (9 to 12 feet) and styles and range from less than $400 to more than $2,000. Try renting a few types to see which suits you.

You’ll also need a paddle, a leash (so the board can’t float away), a life jacket and, unless you live by the water, a vehicle that can transport the board.

You’ll only need a wet suit if you plan to go out when it’s cold.

Once you’ve got your board, it could get “a bit dinged up, but more or less it’ll last forever,” Kevin O’Keefe said.

summer16UHThis article appears in the summer 2016 issue of Upstate Health magazine.

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