Paddleboarding 101: How to Paddleboard from Honduras to Belize

We won a free paddleboarding session

Sunset paddleboarding in Roatan, Honduras

Sunset paddleboarding in Half Moon Bay

We loved Roatan Island in Honduras for many reasons. The sunset, the diving on the beautiful Mesoamerican coral reef, the people we met, and the little adventures we had. Upon attending the drum circle event in the Sundowners beach bar and visiting Roatan’s Facebook page, we won a free paddleboarding session from Steve’s Paddle Shack. We expected a nice and fun workout, but I had no idea that it led me to a little adventure I was about to taste.

It was Monday afternoon. We had spent the whole day before doing the PADI Open Water diving course with the Atlantic Sea Divers, and now we were about to take our free paddleboarding session. I’m a little timid for water sports, especially ones that required standing up and balancing on a surf board, but as a sunset lover, I would never miss the chance of watching the sunset from the paddleboard floating on the bay. Roatan’s sunset is among the best that we’ve seen and it had been reliably gorgeous every single day.

Briefing

 

A postcard showing aerial shot of Half Moon Bay, Roatan Island, Honduras

A postcard showing aerial shot of Half Moon Bay

About a half an hour before the sunset, we were ready with our paddleboards at the shallow water of beautiful Half Moon Bay. I was a little bit nervous because this will be my first attempt standing up on any kind of surf board on water. Good thing that this was not a surf beach with big waves, the barrier reef destroyed the big ones for us far ahead.

I shouted at Ryan, “What if I fall?”

And one of our new friends answered, “Haha, it’s not fun if you don’t fall!”

Ah, okay! So at least it won’t be too embarrassing if I fall.

The briefing was short and sweet:

“Climb up the board. Kneel first, then stand up.”

“Stay on the center to keep balanced.”

“Hold and move the paddle like this.”

“Off you go.”

Eh, that’s it? I was so nervous. I’m a shortie yet feeling so tall standing up on this board. Tall and awkward. I had no interest in falling into the water, to be wet again, after being underwater all day during our diving course.

The short and sweet briefing also covered the safety issue:

“See the darker color in the water? It’s the reef, do not go over it, the current there is strong.”

I was unsure what I should see. I didn’t see the darker color on the water, thanks to my bad eyesight.

“Which one?”, I shouted to our guide.

“That one. Don’t go near the channel.”

I couldn’t really tell what her finger was pointing at. The water? The horizon? The sun? They are all in the same general direction. Also, it would have been better if I understood what “channel” means. Have I told you that English is not my mother tongue?

But, whatever, I’ll play safe! I’ll stick with our guide! I won’t stray from the group. So I would be safe, right?

And the journey begun!

Without further ado, we paddled along, leaving the beach. The breeze that day felt refreshing on our bodies. Paddleboarding was not as difficult as I was afraid of. After a little struggle at the beginning and calmed myself down, balancing was not hard anymore. My arms are not very strong, but we were moving with the wind and current, so the paddling was light. Ryan and our guide were ahead of me, but I couldn’t see where were the rest 3 friends paddling with us. I was not looking for them though, because I was afraid that turning my head and body around would destroy my balance. Hey, it was my first minute on the paddleboard!

The guide called my attention and pointed at a yellow float ball in some distance in front of us. She said to me that it was the limit, we should not go beyond that point. Ryan that couldn’t hear the conversation was heading toward that direction. She speed up to tell Ryan, and not knowing where else to go, I tagged along.

The guide: “Ryan, come back, do not pass through reef, the current is strong.”

Ryan: “Reef? Where? Down here?” And he looked down.

Bad mistake. Ryan lost his balance and fell to the water. It was funny. We just laughed, while Ryan clambered back onto his board.

Photo time!

 

Paddleboarding in Half Moon Bay, Roatan Island, Honduras

Cheers!

I looked to the horizon. The sun was about to sink, gorgeous. Then I remembered that Ryan carried our waterproof camera with him, so we decided to take a quick photo here. The guide was so kind to lend me her dog for posing. Yes, she had her dog with her on the paddleboard, I would love to do that one day. Milo the dog was really cute, and he was so relieved when I returned him to his master’s board.

The guide: “Okay, let’s return to a spot closer to the shore, this is too far.”

After that, everything happened quickly.

Ryan turned around his board, and so did our guide. But that was not the case with me! As I tried to paddled around to the right, currents and the wind blew me back to the left. I couldn’t turn around, and was still facing the open sea. Then I tried to spin to the left, currents and the wind blew me to the right. And again I am still facing the open sea.

Not that I do not know how to paddle. I’ve been paddling the boat, raft, kayak, and so forth. But the wind and current were strong moving toward the open sea. In normal days, the current in this spot is not usually strong. But on this windy day, it was worse. And my small and weak arm muscles didn’t help the situation either. Every time my board is at an angle, the current would push it back aligned with itself again. Suddenly I realized that I was quite close to the yellow floating ball, being pushed along by the current much faster than I realized.

My guide came to rescue. I was told to kneel down for a better balance balance and reducing the impact of wind. She managed to pull my board so now it was facing the shore again. Phew, what a relief! Now we just needed to paddle straight to the direction of the shore.

Right?

Paddle, paddle, paddle. I paddled forward as hard as I could. But instead of leaving the yellow ball behind, now the ball lay between me and the shore. Oh no! Had I moved backward? I kept paddling forward, but the distance kept increasing!

What the heck is happening?

The strong wind and current dragged me out to the sea. I was moving backward. Ryan and the guide are pretty strong paddlers, that’s how they moved forward. I was “apparently” (as I just found out) too weak!

I shouted: “Help me! I’m paddling as hard as I can, but I’m moving backward. What should I do? ”

The guide: “Paddle harder!”

Me: “This is as strong as I can! I’m not kidding!”

The guide: “Harder!”

Me: “This is my hardest!”

I tried my hardest. Of course. Who wants to get swept away by a sea current and lost in the ocean? Of course I paddled my hardest.

Ryan shouted to the guide: “She is not very strong, she’s trying her best and not moving forward. She needs help. ”

The guide told Ryan to paddle toward the others, while she would help me. Ryan wanted to help as well but she did not let him because if Ryan got swept as well, then she’d have to rescue 2 persons.

I guessed we were about above the reef. But I didn’t bother looking down to find that out, that seemed like a not so important detail at the moment. I looked at my far right and left, apparently I started leaving the bay area. I was dragged to the channel.

Without paddling at all, I got dragged fast. Even by paddling hard, I still moved backward, only not as fast. Great options, right!

To paddle to the shore, or not!

Thank goodness finally she reached me. I felt safe now, I knew she could do it. Now the idea was, she would somehow drag my board behind her. She is a strong lady with powerful muscles, but this was not a simple thing, since we had no rope. How were we going to attach our boards together?

We tried many different ways, and here are a few.

She had a bungee cord on her board. With one end attached to her board and the other end on my hand, “hold it with all the strength you have,” and she started paddling again. Worked for several seconds until it snapped off her board. Fail.

She secured the string end to her board again, and the other end to a little hole on my board. The whole moment we were not paddling, we got dragged even further away from the shore. The further we got, the stronger current and wind got. This time I had free hands so I could help the paddling. Unfortunately, the string snapped again. Fail.

She clutched my paddle with both her feet in kneeling position, and I hold the other end with both hands. We finally managed to keep the 2 boards together. She was paddling hard, and I helped with foot kicking. But unfortunately we are still moving backwards.

The whole time I was busy holding on and paddling. I had not paid much attention to the front. Now that I looked up, the shore was already far away. I couldn’t see Ryan and other friends anymore, they were blending with the background. I couldn’t even see the yellow ball anymore! What the heck!

By now she was quite frustrated. We were running out of ideas of what can make us move forward. Amazingly, I was still able to enjoy the scenery. Yes, it was breathtaking to see the bay that caught the golden pink rays from the setting sun, from a board like this. Unfortunately I couldn’t look back to the horizon, but I bet the sunset was amazing.

I felt a bit worried. I realized that me and her alone (okay, and Milo the dog), wouldn’t be able to get us back to shore. She wouldn’t have a problem without me, but with me, it was just too heavy. I didn’t feel threatened though, because my guide hadn’t use her last weapon yet: her mobile phone to call for help. A rescue boat would be delightful. Hopefully Ryan realized what was going on here and asked somebody to help.

At that time, fortunately I was not thinking about sharks. Sharks generally do not interfere and hunt humans. I love Scuba diving and of course I would love to see sharks. But not in my current circumstances, that would just make me panic.

What about Ryan?

 

Sunset paddleboarding in Half Moon Bay, Roatan Island, Honduras

Ryan's shot of me getting swept away. Can you find me?

Ryan had to paddle against current too. We moved backward much faster than Ryan moved forward though. By the time Ryan reached our friends, we were already far out there. As I said, it all happened really quick. Ryan looked back at us, and surprised to find us near the horizon, far out of the bay. He realized we didn’t make any progress and were getting further and further away. He was about to paddle to the shore to call for help.

Get swept away by current while paddleboarding

Check out whether you identified me correctly

Rescue boat

Before Ryan reached the shore though, apparently a boat owner and his friend saw 2 paddleboarders in trouble. Without anybody asking for their help, the observant and kind men jumped into their boat and zoomed toward us.

Wow! How delighted I felt when I saw this small blue and white boat approaching! Hooray! A few minutes later, the boat was right next to us! A man helped me climb into the boat, and the other man grabbed my paddle and the board. I smiled ear to ear, relieved! I was surprised that my guide decided to stay on the paddleboard, not coming with the rescue boat. But oh well, she is a very strong lady, I didn’t hesitate a second that she could handle this current and wind if I was not tagging along. I expressed my deepest gratitude for her to be with me the whole time and kept me safe (and dry!) so far, and my apologies that my weakness caused the trouble.

Looking at the shore from the boat, wow, I see how far we got swept away. The distance from the mouth of the bay to the point I got rescued is multiple times the distance from the mouth of the bay to the where we started. Wow!

I uttered my deepest thanks to the boatmen that just picked me from the water, and one chuckled and replied, “What were you doing out there anyway? Trying to paddle to Belize?”

Central America map by www.roatan.net

Belize is about 200 km by sea from Roatan Island. (Central America map by www.roatan.net)

Ouch! Haha! That got me laughing hard, removed all my worries and panic. Now, all I felt was relief. And stunned by this weird experience.

Thanks a million, Sir, you saved my life! Without you, this exciting evening may not have had such a happy ending!

~ ~ ~ The End ~ ~ ~

Note:

  • Do not avoid paddleboarding because of this article. Paddleboarding is a fun activity and relatively safe, if done properly. Anyway, I think your muscles can’t be weaker than mine :)
  • Thanks to my rescuers: Dawn of the guide, Marvin ship owner, and his friend. You guys are my Roatan Heroes!
  • Thanks to Steve’s Paddle Shack that provided the free paddleboarding session and Carlos that made it happen.
  • Special shout out to Carlos, Paulette, and Juan, our friends that paddleboarded with us that afternoon.

What about you? Ever gone paddleboarding? Ever been swept out to sea?

Sunset at Roatan, Honduras.

Typical sunset in Half Moon Bay. Note a paddleboarder silhouette on the right.

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76 Responses to “Paddleboarding 101: How to Paddleboard from Honduras to Belize”

  1. Theodora
    18 April 2011 at 12:07 am #

    This makes yesterday’s surfing wipeouts seem relatively tame. Currents are not to be messed with. Good thing there was a rescue boat.
    Theodora´s last post…Our Next Intrepid Adventure- To Papua on a Motorbike

    • Dina
      23 April 2011 at 2:21 pm #

      Surfing wipe out sounds dangerous! I’m glad that you are okay!! Yes, I was undermined current before, until I had to fight it with my own muscle and it didn’t work!

  2. bethany
    18 April 2011 at 11:06 am #

    Wow! what an adventure! I would’ve been scared out of my mind! I’ve always wanted to Paddleboard though – it looks so fun when I see other people do it. The water can be a scary place though. I’ve had some times surfing that have scared the life out of me so I definitely understand your fear!
    bethany´s last post…Pontassieve- Italy- Where Wine Lovers WWOOF

    • Dina
      23 April 2011 at 2:22 pm #

      I can imagine surfing must be much scarier because you are doing that in rough wavy beach that you actually have to fight over, kudos to you that have done that!

  3. Islandgirl Dawn
    18 April 2011 at 12:39 pm #

    Great article Dina!! Well written and super funny (now ;)lol
    Come back and paddle some more…lets get those arms pumped!! :)
    It was a great adventure…for sure!
    xx
    Dawn

    • Dina
      23 April 2011 at 2:25 pm #

      Hey Dawn, thanks for the unforgettable little adventure we had! It was so terrific too we had Milo with us that day, Milo was such a great dog, he was really calm! If I come back there, let’s have another adventure again :)
      xoxo
      Thanks for being with me the whole time!

  4. Nancie
    18 April 2011 at 7:36 pm #

    What an adventure Dina! You photos are gorgeous.
    Nancie´s last post…Travel Photo Thursday- April 14- 2011- Reclining Buddha- Bago- Mayanmar

    • Dina
      23 April 2011 at 2:25 pm #

      Thanks, Nancie!

  5. Sailor
    18 April 2011 at 9:12 pm #

    Really fascinating story. Fantastic pictures too.
    Sailor´s last post…Norwegian Cruise Line Panama Transit

    • Dina
      23 April 2011 at 2:25 pm #

      Thank you! An unforgettable little adventure for me :)

  6. DTravelsRound
    19 April 2011 at 1:23 am #

    Wow — scary!! I tried to do boating stuff on my trip and never had much luck. Good on you for trying it! I don’t think I could pull it off. Ever. :)
    DTravelsRound´s last post…Win a trip to any 7 cities with HostelBookers

    • Dina
      23 April 2011 at 2:27 pm #

      I hope one day I know how to handle current better! Or is it just a matter of building my muscles? Good luck on any your future boating attempts!

  7. Cheryl Howard
    21 April 2011 at 1:06 pm #

    This looks like a lot of fun, I’d try doing it! Glad you were rescued quickly. :)
    Cheryl Howard´s last post…Sea Lions In The Galapagos Islands

    • Dina
      23 April 2011 at 2:27 pm #

      A lot of fun indeed, you should try it!

  8. Bluegreen Kirk
    22 April 2011 at 10:34 am #

    i can certainly understand why the guide didnt want anyone to help but I dont understand why some people dont believe a person when they say they are trying the hardest that they can. I guess she really wanted to get everything out of you she could before having to come get you.

    • Dina
      23 April 2011 at 2:29 pm #

      Maybe she just didn’t understand that there are people as week as I am jumping to the water with a paddleboard… Certainly I was trying my hardest the whole time! Wow, I need a lot of exercise!

  9. Anita
    28 April 2011 at 9:19 pm #

    Wow: sounds like a scary experience. I can only imagine your relief when you saw the boat approaching.

    • Dina
      8 May 2011 at 5:38 pm #

      I was!! I won’t make it otherwise….

    • Dina
      8 May 2011 at 5:46 pm #

      Just read your article mentioned above, hilarious, hahahah! love it!

  10. Christy @ Ordinary Traveler
    29 April 2011 at 4:43 pm #

    This looks so fun! I’m not a big fan of paddleboarders when they are stealing all the waves while I’m surfing, but we tried this on Catalina Island last year and had a blast. It’s a great way to get around.
    Christy @ Ordinary Traveler´s last post…Round-Up of Favorite Travel Blog Posts 042911 2

    • Dina
      8 May 2011 at 5:47 pm #

      I hope I can use it to get around one day!!! Not just drifting with the currents, hahaha…

  11. Jade
    29 April 2011 at 7:01 pm #

    We love paddle boarding- even though I’m not that good at it! Too funny that the boat came after you!

    • Dina
      8 May 2011 at 5:49 pm #

      Hahaha, I won’t make it without the boat :) I need to try this paddleboarding again :) I bet your version of “not good at it” is already muuuch better than mine!

  12. Raymond
    2 May 2011 at 11:57 pm #

    I didn’t even know that was possible! Very cool, and I’m with the “glad you made it out alive” cam. :)
    Raymond´s last post…The World is Flat and You Can Be Too

    • Dina
      8 May 2011 at 5:50 pm #

      I should have brought my passport for the border crossing :D

  13. sofia - as we travel
    3 May 2011 at 5:52 am #

    Scary..! Currents are dangerous that way, you can get swept away in seconds.

    I’ve never done paddle boarding before, but it looks like a fun thing to do if you can avoid the currents:)

    • Dina
      8 May 2011 at 5:52 pm #

      Yeah, we got swept away quite far! Need to work out these muscles :)

  14. Paola
    1 July 2011 at 3:41 am #

    HAHAHA hilarious! I’m glad everything turned out great. Love your spirit! Anyone that can enjoy the view while in obvious danger wins me over instantly :)

    • Dina
      3 July 2011 at 2:09 pm #

      Hahaha, might as well, so the brushing to the danger is not a waste!

  15. Federico
    6 October 2011 at 2:47 am #

    I prefer to SUP when there are waves! But such a challenge is always enticing…good thing that you made it!

  16. How to Paddle Board
    7 November 2011 at 7:28 am #

    Sounds like a slightly scary experience that you managed to turn into a fun memory with your positive attitude!
    How to Paddle Board´s last post…How to Paddle a Stand Up Paddle Board

  17. Tobias
    9 November 2011 at 3:29 pm #

    That’s an adventure, that’s for sure! Good thing it worked out well in the end. It looks like a very beautiful place, I must say…

    • Dina
      9 November 2011 at 3:37 pm #

      Good thing indeed! Maybe won’t be so much fun if that was ended in different way :)
      It is a gorgeous place. Sunset there was gorgeous almost every single day I was there!

  18. adam - Tropical Nomad
    12 March 2013 at 6:54 am #

    What a great story,
    I thought a little paddle-board around Queenstown lake was exciting. This is a really cool article and surprisingly, something I now want to do now :)
    adam – Tropical Nomad´s last post…Working in Australia – My Summary

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