No paddle? No problem. Local returns to Hawaii for 32-mile race

Don Alderman, 45, of Johns Island finished second overall — among both stand-up paddleboarders and prone paddleboarders — at Bodhi’s Revenge SUP race on Folly Beach on April 19.

This weekend, barring lightning and high winds, locals will see a lot of stand-up paddleboarders on area waterways.

While that’s become a familiar scene in the Lowcountry within the last six years, it more unusual to see people laying down on the big boards and paddling with their hands and arms, known as prone paddleboarding, or simply paddleboarding.

In fact, decades before people stood up on boards and used paddles to propel themselves, people were paddling without them, either in a prone or kneeling position.

Yet despite a growing local paddling community, one can count the number of prone paddleboarders on one hand. Among them is a man who hopes to change that.

Don Alderman, 45, of Johns Island grew up surfing on Folly Beach and was introduced to prone paddleboarding three years ago by Dave Mello, who moved here a few years ago from Hawaii, where the sport’s roots were traced back to 1929.

Alderman, whose wife and two children enjoy stand-up paddleboarding, prefers prone because “I feel more connected to the water.” He adds that part of the sport, usually done downwind beyond the breakers, is connecting and coasting on swells, or “bumps.”

Last year, Alderman was one of two local men who finished what is considered the Tour de France of paddleboarding — the Molokai 2 Oahu Paddleboard World Championships, a 32-mile paddle in the Kaiwi or Molokai Channel. Most participants come from Hawaii, Australia and California.

Bill Smith of Isle of Palms finished the stand-up paddleboard race in 6 hours, 23 minutes and 21 seconds (the second of two in the 50-99 age group), while Alderman finished second of seven in the prone age group of 40-49 with a time of 6 hours, 19 minutes and 57 seconds.

While Smith decided not to return, Alderman wanted another crack at Molokai, though he expects much more competition at the event on July 26.

“I’m going back because I just love to be tested and to be in the middle of that channel,” said Alderman, who departed for the Aloha State last week.

Alderman said prone paddleboarding is popular in Hawaii, the West Coast of the United States, and Australia, the latter of which tends to prefer a kneeling position.

Alderman, who works as an investment manager for a financial consulting group of Wells Fargo Advisors, started training in earnest for Molokai 2 Oahu in April, typically doing three paddles of an hour or two duration during the week and one paddle of three to five hours on Saturday or Sunday.

Last week, it was a 20-mile “flat water grind” going back-and-forth on the Folly River.

While some might think all that paddling would cause aching shoulders, Alderman said proper technique calls for emphasizing the larger muscle groups of the back. That said, he admits his neck often gets sore. Racing long distance, he added, results in severe chafing, despite the use of rash guard shirts.

Ultimately, Alderman hopes another good finish will help him promote the prone paddleboarding in Charleston, which he adds is usually five years behind new trends.

“My purpose in doing this is not to be a great waterman, but ultimately to promote the sport to local kids.”

Reach David Quick at 937-5516.