As we paddle-boarded on the still waters of Menemsha Pond with Nicole Corbo, owner of Aloha Paddle MV, it was hard to imagine we had just mastered the strokes a few minutes earlier on shore. Standing on the water, one can see swans take flight. Crabs scuttle below. The repetitive paddling is relaxing, almost meditative.
Ms. Corbo founded her company this past May. Her goal is to bring “the aloha spirit to Martha’s Vineyard.”
In Hawaii, she explained, “ha” translates to “the breath of life . . . It’s what embodies the universe.” “Alo” means “full of.” So in Hawaii, “aloha” translates to “full of life, or “full of breath.” She explained further, “It’s basically respect. Having respect and compassion for everything, no matter your ability or background.”
Ms. Corbo brought us to a small inlet off of the pond where we could practice yoga and fitness exercises on the boards. She uses these moves in a fitness class she leads on Tuesday mornings, along with offering private lessons and rentals. She is also an authorized paddle-board dealer for YOLO boards, a company whose slogan “You Only Live Once” reflects her own effervescent spirit.
Ms. Corbo is a native of Connecticut, but moved to the Vineyard at age 16. Her family had summered on the Island her entire life. She has always had a connection to the water.
“Everyone in my family loves the ocean, so I think that was part of why we spent summers here — to be around the water.” At 18 she moved to Hawaii to participate in a conservation project with injured sea turtles. “I did that for six months, and then decided to start college out there.”
Originally a marine biology major at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Ms. Corbo quickly found her calling in special education. She has worked as a teacher with a number of programs for troubled and disabled youth, and her dream is to incorporate her expertise in Special Education with her love of ocean sports. She is particularly inspired by a program called AccesSurf in Hawaii, whose mission is to empower people with mental and physical disabilities by providing adaptive surfing lessons and other water recreation.
Ms. Corbo discovered stand-up paddle-boarding after a life-changing surfing accident threatened to keep her out of the water. She had been surfing in Hawaii when a storm hit and pinned her under the water “for what felt like an hour.” Paddle-boarding allowed her to return to the water and rekindle her passion for ocean sports.
She has visions for the expansion of Aloha Paddle MV on the Island next summer.
“I’m hoping to get into more rigorous exercise classes and also start yoga classes on the boards . . . In May I’m going to go through a yoga for stand-up paddle-boarding certification course in California before I come back next summer.” She also hopes to purchase smaller boards designed for children. “I love taking out kids, that’s my favorite thing to do.”
Aloha Paddle MV caters to a range of ages and ability levels and will instruct groups at whichever beach is convenient for them. As of now, the minimum age to be on the board alone is 10 years old.
“I take the real little ones out on the board with me,” she said. She claims a 99 per cent success rate with people learning how to stand-up paddle, with the 1 per cent “still having a blast.” The short learning curve is one of her favorite parts of teaching.
“At the start of the lesson a lot of people come and they’re freaked . . . They’re feeling self-conscious and really doubting themselves that they can do it. By the end, a lot of people say ‘that was the highlight of my trip,’ or ‘the highlight of my vacation.’ Seeing people transform like that and have more confidence at the end is really fulfilling. Also, I get to be out in the ocean, doing something I love, so that’s a plus.”