The night after our rancher friends Chase and Garryn tried and failed to pop our Hala Straight Up SUP, we were all hanging out. As we sipped the beer Hala generously gave them, despite their failure, we rehashed their attempts to pop the board with a few other ranchers.
“I couldn’t believe it. I thought we were going to be one and done!” Chase said. I giggled from afar as I listened. I was pumped our board had shown such resiliency.
“You used the John Deere 6155m and the swather, and that sucker still held?” Clay asked, considering the weight of the two large pieces of equipment.
“It bent and folded, but nothing!” Garryn scuffed his foot in the dirt.
“I have to admit, you all beat the heck out of it. But I guess it is pretty dang tough, huh?” I held my beer out to cheers Chase and Garryn, trying to validate their efforts without gloating… too much.
“Oh, we’ll figure it out.” Chase retorted. A flurry of ideas flew amongst the ranchers, including running their herd of bison over it and dragging it around the arena behind a horse.
“What if you just shoot at it?” Clay asked.
“Ground rule: No knives, no bullets,” I said, giving him a mom-like stare.
“Hey, you know what you should do?” Tommy chimed in from the corner after absorbing the details of the story. “You should have a horse run alongside an irrigation ditch and pull ya! Like water skiing!”
We all stared at him… then burst out laughing. “How would that pop it, Tommy?”
“I don’t know! But it would be fun as hell!” We all thought on it, then vigorously agreed.
“I’ll tell you what, Tommy, we’ll give it a go. Just for the heck of it. Hala’s gettin’ ranchy. We might as well try!”
Might As Well Try
“You want the horse in the water, Colleen?” Chase asked as he finished introducing McFlurry to the board. McFlurry was a beautiful horse but a bit skittish. This would be the ultimate test of McFlurry’s ability to perform and stay calm.
“I guess whatever he’ll do works for me! If we could get him in the water, that would be great, but… uh… if he’s uncomfortable, whatever works.” I strapped down my Astral PFD and made sure my NRS WRSI helmet was buckled.
We were at the Yampa Valley Ranch, the sister ranch to Whispering Willows, where we’d run over the Straight Up with the tractor. I looked at the trickling Yampa River. It was late September, and the water was low and shallow.
Horse Whisperer Moment
I put my nose against McFlurry’s. “We got this, right, little buddy?” I harnessed all my calm energy, trying to breathe into him and form a connection or bond. I closed my eyes, thinking we were having a real “horse whisperer” moment.
I snapped back into reality as the horse jerked away from me, and McFlurry’s alarmed eyes made me think maybe this wasn’t the greatest idea. Things can go really wrong really fast with horses.
I looked at Chase, and he nodded. “Alright then. Let’s do it!” He threw his lasso to me. “Make sure your hand doesn’t get stuck in that loop!” I hooked it to the t-grip of the Hala Grafik Carbon paddle and held on as if it were a poma lift on a ski mountain. My balance felt wobbly without my paddle in the water.
I gave a nod, and Chase tied his rope off to his saddle horn and turned to McFlurry. A couple of halts and jolts from the nervous horse was all it took before boom! We were movin’!
I worked hard to engage my core and kept my eye on the river channel, trying to shift my weight to stay balanced. The water on the rails started to cap a bit, and I laughed, hooted, and hollered, thinking, “Wow! We’re moving!” I felt like I was FLYING! Wild, wild West style!
“It Could Catch”
When I was brave enough to take my eyes off the water for a moment, I saw that McFlurry looked unphased. Despite the speed the board was gaining, the powerful animal was taking a nice, easy stroll. Then suddenly, I felt the board scrape the bottom, and before I could react, My Hala paddle “poma” yanked me, and I tumbled and rolled across the shallow rocks.
Chase turned back, alarmed, as he felt the tension on the rope loosen. “Colleen, are you ok? Are you good?” I rolled over, laughing.
“Holy heck, that’s so fun!! Let’s do it again!”
And so we did. We did it at a trot; we did it walking; we did it with me using the stomp pad and lifting the nose of the board. We tried it with me on my knees to see how far we could go.
“I think we’re going to run out of light,” Chase’s wife Ali called from the shore.
“Are you sure? Ah, man. I could do this all night!” I protested. “Alright, you’re probably right. We better get going”.
“SUP-Joring” Chase smiled his sly smile. “It could catch. Guess we better tell Tommy his idea wasn’t ridiculous after all.”