Lessons of SUP

I blame litterers for my first fall from a stand-up paddle board. During a journey down the French Broad River, I was complaining to a friend about litter and got so pissed off that I forgot what I was doing. When I felt a strange, cool sensation, I looked down to see my right foot and half of my shin submerged in the river, as the board sat at about a 45 degree angle under the water. I barely had time to think, That’s not good, before KABLOOSH! Aquatic face plant, complete with a full-on nasal enema. Blech.

20160618_145855I totally meant to do that

Standing at nearly six feet tall, I have a fierce aversion to falling. It’s a long way to the ground, which is often hard, if not also sharp, jagged, or otherwise injurious. This feeling was cemented during my college years, as my school was located in the middle of a horrible frozen tundra (of doom!) where I witnessed fellow students slipping on ice and crashing into dirty piles of slush on a regular basis. Plunging into frozen wetness when it’s negative a million degrees outside is miserable on a whole variety of levels, so during those four horrendous winters, I learned to fear falling and avoid it at all costs.

When I’m on a stand-up paddle board, I continually have to remind myself that the ground is made of water, so there’s little need for concern. It’s hard to shake off a well-established fear, however, and I often catch myself being overly cautious due to concerns about falling.

IMG_6519 (1)Can’t move. Might fall. Lemme know when we’re heading in.

The other day, some friends and I traveled to a big, beautiful lake with our SUPs. By the time we arrived, the wind was so strong that the lake looked like an ocean. While I pumped up my board, I heard a yelp, then turned to see a woman who’d just launched her kayak get tossed back onto the shore by a wave. Shaking my head, I thought, This is gonna be a sit-down paddle board kinda day.

But about fifteen minutes into my cross-legged SUP experience, I reconsidered. This is stupid, I thought. I should stand up and try to ride these waves. If it works, it could be cool. If it doesn’t, I know how to swim.

So I stood up, and the moment I got my feet under me, a wave must’ve hit the front of my board, because the next thing I knew, I was running backwards (all the while thinking, Why in the world am I running backwards?!). Of course, one can’t run for long on a paddle board. I took maybe 5 steps, then KABLOOSH! Into the water I went.

20160618_143927Here’s what it looks like when I’m not running backwards off my board.

Two tragedies resulted from this event. One: my friends weren’t watching, so they didn’t get to witness something that I’m sure looked very funny. Two: I lost my sunglasses. But that’s exactly why I buy those cheap. I tend to lose them in large and/or rapidly moving bodies of water.

And here’s the kicker: about half an hour later, while I was still laughing about the first incident, the exact same thing happened again. Yup. KABLOOSH! Right off the back of the board. And no one saw me! AGAIN! (No one in my party, anyway. I know a couple of fisherman did, as the suppressed laughter radiating from their boat was practically palpable as they cruised on by.)

My favorite thing about this whole ordeal was that I really thought I was going to learn something uplifting and inspiring when I made the decision to face my fears and stand up in the rough water, but instead I learned this:

If you don’t make the choice to push fear aside and take a risk, then you will never know how hilarious it is to run straight off the back of your paddle board. Twice.

I guess that’s as good a lesson as any.

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