A Conversation with Martha Trammell

This Midwestern paddleboarder’s heart belongs to the water.  

Martha Trammell grew up in landlocked Missouri, taking occasional trips to Lake Wappapello and Current River in southeastern Missouri. After she married Lee Trammell, he interviewed for physician residency programs in Florida, and she finally saw the ocean.

“Someday, can I have a cottage by the sea?” she often asked.

Her dream came true. Today, she and her husband still live in Columbia, but she owns a 37-foot 1983 Dickerson sailboat, her metaphorical cottage by the sea, that she keeps in Annapolis, Md.

Even when Trammell is in Columbia, she can’t stay away from the water. She took diving lessons with Dwain Gardner and Mary Stanford of Captain Nemo’s Dive Shop, who teach SCUBA in Hickman pool and lead dive trips,  and became friends with the couple. She might not be able to lug her boat from Maryland to Missouri, but she keeps her passion alive with her boat television antennae manufacturing business, The Nautical Fishwife, which combines two loves: the ocean and tinkering with boats.

“I’ve done a whole lot of maintenance on the boat because I enjoy it,” she says. “I love taking things apart and putting it back together — hopefully.”

Weather permitting, Trammell heads out several times a week to paddleboard. “It’s like a surfboard,” Trammell says. “Surfboards are typically shorter and have a different fin system underneath, but it (a paddleboard) is like a little platform that you can sit, kneel, stand on and paddle like you would a canoe almost.”

Whether it’s for personal meditation or fun with friends, Trammell encourages people to take up this relaxing water sport.

Why do you like paddleboarding?

With paddleboarding, you’re standing up, so you can actually see down into the water. It’s just such a nice, quiet, peaceful little thing to do. I think everybody, in a sense, meditates in their own personal way. But for some reason I’ve always just been drawn to the water. It’s my alone time. There’s no telephone. There’s no TV. There’s no one asking questions or needing anything. It’s just my time. I like that. I need that. I think everybody needs that.

Is it meditative to go with other people?

No, that’s just fun time. The other day, there was a whole group of younger kids on kayaks, paddleboards and canoes at a water camp. I was out washing the boat (in Annapolis), and one of the little boys looked up and said, “Oh wow, look at that cool blue paddleboard.” He paddled his kayak over and was asking me all sorts of questions. I thought, “Oh, how wonderful that the kids are introduced to that type of thing.”

What advice would you give people in Columbia who want to get involved in the sport?

I would love it if they would call Captain Nemo’s and try to talk Dwain and Mary into carrying paddleboards! But anyway, just rent one. You can’t dismiss the safety aspect of it, so you have to have a personal flotation device and wear your leash that connects to your ankle and the board. YouTube has a gazillion how-to paddleboard videos. There are some really good tips on safety and how to get started. You’ll fall, and of course you’re gonna look stupid, but it’s OK. Just get over it.

Do you fall a lot?

No. I mean, I try not to. The last time I had the board out in the fall in Columbia, I was coming into the dock and talking to someone at the same time. I hit the dock too hard and fell off. It happens. But when I first got started, I couldn’t really look up and talk to anyone. Now it’s much more relaxed.

Where in Columbia can you practice besides Stephens Lake?

Perry Philips. Oh, it’s wonderful. Going out to Perry Philips, I was driving through Sonic, and the person that came to the car said, “I’ve never seen a surfboard before.” There are a lot of people fishing out there who have never seen paddleboarding before, though it’s getting to be much more common. Oh, and Little Dixie (in Millersburg).