We love paddleboarding at camp, as do our campers.  On the lake it is a pretty relaxing sport, you just cruise around, sometimes catch the wake of a passing boat, and generally just soak up the sun and have fun.  Take these massive boards to the ocean, though, and it is a different story.

As you can see in the above picture, this wave is no tsunami.  Paddleboards are great on low swell days like these.  They are wide, long, and super stable so you do not really need the speed and consistency that surfing requires.  You can ride almost anything, use the long paddle to steer and propel, and laugh at the hardcore surfers on the beach who are waiting for the big waves to come while you are having all the fun.



Stop-motion drawing of "The Old Man and the Sea"

Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea is one of my favorite books.  A combination of simple prose, brilliant narrative, and a compelling message make it a true classic (and the ocean setting should appeal to any water-lover). I stumbled upon the below video today on Vimeo in which an artists transposes the Old Man story (shark attacks included) into a series of pictures in stop motion.  The song in the background has been overused as of late in online videos but it fits so I'll overlook it.




Obscure watersports activities

Companies have promoted some pretty outrageous boating sports over the years.  I have to admit that I am a sucker for cool/new/interesting activities and I will try just about anything given the opportunity.  Whether I would introduce them to my campers, though, is another story. I was inspired to write this entry after seeing the below promotional video online.  The product was so preposterous that I decided to dig into my memory banks for a few others from over the years.


I'll get to the subwing in a couple of paragraphs.

First on my list of disastrous boating activities would have to be the flying tube from around 2006.  On paper it looked awesome; who doesn't like getting launched into the air while tubing?  Achieving sustained flight behind the boat seemed like a no-brainer and countless families, organizations, and boating enthusiasts cleared store shelves of the new item.  About a month into that boating season it was clear that the flying tubes were actually unstable death traps.  The tubes would take flight, as advertised, but once airborne could not be controlled and unpredictably plummeted, inverted, and crashed at high speeds into the water.  After two reported deaths, broken bones, collapsed lungs, and countless face and body lacerations, the manufacturer issued a voluntary recall of the fledgling product.  Various new models have been released since then with added safety features but the stigma has remained and the flying tube has not been able to gain widespread popularity.

The next boat sport that came to mind was one from the early 90's called disk boarding.  I honestly cannot find a picture or any evidence that it ever existed on the web but I distinctly remember it from my early days of learning how to waterski at camp.  It was just a slightly concave disk like you would use to go sledding but it had a plastic hitch to lock the rope handle into for when you were sick of holding on.  Basically all you could do when moving was spin in circles and attempt to go to the left or right over the wake which was made difficult to nearly impossible due to the lack of fins.  Disc boarding was not dangerous but just a massive dud of a sport.  I'm sure someone else has heard of this, anyone?

Not all dumb watersports ideas need be motor-boat reliant to make this list.  I am including the floating iceberg climbing tower/slide because like the flying tube it just was not properly thought out by its designers.  I was at a camp fair in 2009 when I saw a picture of one at another camp's booth.  The director told me that he loved the iceberg at his camp - he chose to purchase a 25 foot high variant - save two major issues.  The first was that he needed about fifty of his staff members to carry it out of storage each season because of its cumbersome size and weight.  The second, more important, issue was that the number of broken arms and ankles at his camp skyrocketed in the first summer that he had the floating iceberg.  Apparently the climbing rungs were designed in such a way that if a climber lost his/her grip and fell it was easy to get caught on the way down and break whatever appendage got hung up.  The manufacturer has since corrected this design flaw and under careful supervision the floating iceberg is a great toy for camp groups.

OK, on to the subwing.  Honestly my first reaction was "that thing looks awesome, I can't wait to try it, where can I buy it?"  Then I thought a bit more.  Here are my three big concerns:

  1. At any kind of speed, even under 10 mph behind the boat, you would need some impeccably clear water in order to see approaching obstacles.  I foresee large numbers of tangled lines, smashed faces, and, probably, some drowning/crash related fatalities.
  2. Up in New Hampshire our lakes make it up to about 80 degrees by the middle of the summer - on the surface.  Anyone who has dived down five or ten feet knows that the temperature plummets quickly.  Once you are in water that is steadily in the low 60's or 50's you lose body heat at a rapid pace.  I do not see subwing participants spending an extended amount of time at great depths before there are chattering teeth and blue lips.
  3. The subwing effectively makes the boat spotter irrelevant.  Spotters make sure that skiers or wakeboarders have not fallen or let go or gotten hurt.  With the subwing the spotter may not see a rider let go (or smash into an underwater rock) and by the time he/she is noticed the boat may be quite a distance away.

Almost certain death is enough reason to lead me not to offer the subwing to my campers but if I can get my hands on one this summer I will certainly give it a go (and get some video).  The subwing could be the future of boating fun; I guess if no one ever tossed their surf board behind a boat and rode the wake two feet from the prop we would never have had wake surfing, right?


Top 5: Reasons why Merrymeeting Lake is the ultimate camp location

There is a tendency for summers at Merrymeeting Lake to drift by in a blur of sun, sand, water, boats, and BBQ.  You fall in to a routine like nowhere else on the planet.  Early morning, purple sunrises with the fog lifting off the water and floating over the mountains.  Sunny days spent out on the boat with friends.  Evenings eating outside on the deck.  Night cruises around the coves and inlets blanketed by a million shining stars.  There are some unique aspects to Merrymeeting that make it the ultimate spot to host a summer camp.

  1. So clean you could drink it - The depth and flow of the lake keep it so clean that you could literally bottle the water and sell it at the store.  Merrymeeting is consistently ranked as one of the top cleanest lakes in the country and that is a stat the local residents are proud of and try hard to maintain.  Everyone takes the health of the lake seriously so you rarely, if ever, see floating debris, foreign invasive plants, or oil/gas in the water.
  2. Uncrowded/undeveloped - Merrymeeting has a total of one marina on its shores and one public boat ramp yet is miles in length and big enough to cruise around and have fun.  Larger lakes in the area tend to draw the crowds and thus it is common on Merrymeeting to be out on the water mid-week and never have another boat in sight.  Few boats mean less traffic-produced waves which equals glassy conditions most days for boarding/skiing.  Decreased boating also yields an unparalleled playground for sailing, kayaking, and swimming without the risk of getting chopped up by a passing propeller.
  3. Perfect temperature/weather - The depth of the lake (125 feet at its deepest point) comes in to play again in maintaining an ideal water temperature.  We have gorgeous summers in New Hampshire with the air temp hovering around 80 most days and the water getting into the 70's by the end of July and staying that way into September.  Not too hot, not too cold, but juuuuust right.
  4. Friendly people - There is a camaraderie between the people who share their time out on Merrymeeting.  Everyone is a little more chilled out, happier, and thus friendlier than elsewhere in the real world.  You'll always get a salutation from any passing kayak, canoe, or motorboat and the only road traffic is caused by people stopping in the middle of the road to chat.  While wakeboarding or skiing on the lake you will hear hoots and see fist pumps as you pass people on shore or in other boats...everyone gets stoked to see people having fun on the water.
  5. Wildlife - In my years at Merrymeeting I have seen some amazing wildlife.  The lake is home to a few pairs of loons, whose calls you can hear most evenings, and at night you cannot escape the croaking of giant bullfrogs.  There are turtles that lounge on docks, moose and deer that creep to the shores to drink, and bald eagles that circle around and swoop in for their fishy feasts.  I have also see a mountain lion, a few bear, and lots of foxes.  The animals mostly have a complete indifference to us and are happy to just go about their business and leave us to enjoy the perfect lake.

All of these reasons why Merrymeeting is great also remind us to share the lake, keep it clean, and preserve it for years to come.  Everyone surely has their favorite spot to spend the summer but for me it is Merrymeeting Lake so that is where Water Monkey Camp calls home.