I had a rough spring. A skin cancer diagnosis (too much time on the water without enough sunscreen) and ensuing radiation treatment saw me lose 18 pounds off my fighting weight. But it didn't stop me from traveling to Croatia just two weeks later to SUP the country's northern Dalmatian Islands in the Adriatic Sea.
Forget that I didn't exactly gain any weight back on the half-a-globe flight over, which didn't serve any food. Or how I arrived in the port village of Zadar too late to dine, and caught the next morning's ferry too early, as well. The real clincher came when I disembarked on the island of Molat at 7 a.m., stomach growling, only to find the tiny village completely shut down. The few restaurants and lone grocery store wouldn't open until 6 p.m. Up to 600 people used to live year-round on the island, but now it's dropped to maybe 70--mostly retirees and fishermen. All of which means stores, especially in the offseason, are often shuttered.
So I did what any starving paddler would do. I went for a paddle around the harbor, protected from the region's three prevalent winds--bura, maestrale and jugo.
That's when I saw the same winds help a beautiful wooden schooner sail into port. Two tour guides got off and began unloading bikes for their clients. I paddled over and befriended them, stepping off my board to help them unload. With the whole day to kill before I met my friend, Marko Mrše of Malik Adventures, I asked if they needed help leading the tour around the island. Lo and behold they did! Best yet, the tour included a chicken salad lunch with traditional burek pastries. I was saved.
That evening, I finally met Marko on the lone restaurant's deck and watched the sun bathe the village's orange-tiled rooftops in soft alpenglow. "Sorry I'm late," he said, as our waiter delivered fresh octopus baked with potatoes, which we washed down with local wine (Zinfandel is an ancestor of a Croatian grape). "Hope you found something to do."
"No worries," I replied, more than happy with the day's paddling, cycling and ... sandwiches. -EB
This story was originally published in SUP’s Winter 2017 Travel Issue as part of SUP’s package feature on unexpected lessons learned from traveling to SUP. Grab a copy for more SUP travel tips!