About three or four years ago, I was watching one of the morning shows while getting the boys ready for school, and during the weather cross the tv host was trying out a water sport I hadn't heard of before: stand up paddling (SUP). I remember watching this guy paddle while standing up on what looked like and oversized surfboard, and I remember thinking, I think I could do that.
Fast-forward another year or so, and on a trip back to Perth I noticed a number of stand up paddlers out on the water there, and I thought two things: 1) I really want to try that; and 2) I really don't want to do that in the ocean in Perth - there are too many sharks!
I've always had a bit of fear when it comes to swimming in the ocean. I don't like not knowing what's underneath me and, quite frankly, Australia - especially Perth - is kind of known for its sharks! It's not an unreasonable fear, in my mind. Mr A and I went snorkelling at Rottnest Island during the early months of our relationship (waaaay back in '93), and although I loved it at first, within probably ten minutes, I was starting to get anxious about being in the water. Mr A used to go diving a fair bit back then (and even chose to dive with sharks once!), but there was no way I was going to join him. Nuh-uh. Not for me.
However, I've always loved being on the water. I think probably because I grew up spending a fair amount of time on my parents' boat. (My Dad bought a small power boat with four seats and named it lovingly after my Mum: Miss Gloria.) In fact, I was around six weeks old the first time I went fishing with my parents. Well, they fished, I slept peacefully in my bassinet under the hull, by all accounts.
After moving to the beaches a few years ago, I became increasingly keen to give SUP a go. When we first moved, I was happy to walk by the ocean, observe it and swim in it during summer (sticking close to shore!), but the ocean inevitably draws you in. I've never really considered myself particularly 'outdoorsy', but since moving to the beaches, I find myself wanting to get outside more and more.
Just over a year ago, when Eldest Son took an impromptu after school trip to try SUP one Friday afternoon, and returned saying how much fun it was, that was it for me. I had to try it for myself. So the following Friday, Mr A and I headed down to Balmoral Beach, hired a couple of SUP boards, got a few tips from the dude at the hire place, and headed out on the water.
I loved it. It was easy and fun, and being out on the water again after so long felt good.
After that, I took more trips to Balmoral on my own, and we also took the kids to the local lake for a family paddle. Completely hooked by then, for my birthday in September last year, I got my own board. It's an inflatable board, so I can throw it in the car, drop the kids to school, then head straight to the water (ocean, harbour, lake, river - whatever body of water I can find), pump my board up and I'm on the water in no time. Although I have my favourites that I visit, I try different places all the time.
In the last six months, I've paddled regularly. Apart from getting exercise and out in the sunshine, the other bonus I got out of SUP really surprised me. You see, whenever I'm doing anything other than SUP, my mind is constantly racing. I'm thinking about what I have to do, where I have to be, what I'm going to make for dinner that night, what bills are due. I worry about my kids (are they doing okay?), I worry about ... stuff. I'm going over conversations I've had with people, and what conversations I should be having with people.
But when I get out on the water? All of those thoughts just go. All I do is listen to the sounds of the wildlife, admire the scenery surrounding me, enjoy the sun shining on my face, watch in awe as birds fly ahead and right in front of me, and fish and jellyfish and baby stingrays swim beneath me. The gentle lapping sound my board makes when I stop to take photos reminds me of my childhood - it's the same comforting sound I used to hear while sitting with my parents in our boat. And yes, admittedly, when I'm on the harbour or the ocean, I do think about sharks sometimes. But, quite surprisingly, when I start getting in to the paddle more, those thoughts soon dissipate, and I just enjoy myself. Being on the board is intoxicating.
Afterwards, I'm far more relaxed and happy than I was before I got out on the board. Almost as soon as my board is rolled up and back in the car, I'm already thinking about where and when the next paddle will take place. Quite frankly, SUP is addictive. In a very good way.
Having that quiet time, and doing something I enjoy so much is fantastic. I've found my thing (outside of writing, of course). :)
Have you found yours?