Last week I paddled 38 miles in eight days. That might not seem like a lot for a pro, or someone in serious training. It was a lot for me, though. I feel like, to paddle that much, at the expense of almost everything else you're doing, you have to be running away from something. I paddled like I was possessed. Setting the alarm at 6:07 every morning, and then paddling again at night. Taking friends out and then doing five or six miles with my paddle buddies. I'm not super trained like the people doing Molokai to Oahu. Five miles in the morning means I'm tuckered out in the afternoon and have a hard time doing other things the rest of the day.
You Can't Find Jesus in a Chicken Sandwich
Last week was a confusing week. My family celebrated a happy milestone–my parents have been married (mostly happily, I think) for 40 years. Last week, the US experienced what is, to me, a depressing event: tens of thousands of people lined up to make a stand by eating a fast food fried chicken sandwich. We had spectacular weather. Somebody who does some work for me told me they had to go on food stamps, and, unfortunately, other than giving her food (which I will), there's nothing I can do to help. I'm only one teeny tiny part of her income. It was an up down up down up down week. I couldn't be near the internet. I couldn't turn on the news. I couldn't deal with the crazy that is modern life. All I could do was paddle.
Paddleboarding is for Everyone
Thursday morning I went to the paddle shop, parked, and did my six mile loop by myself. The weather was incredible. I saw dolphins three separate times. When I came in, Ann Suttles was finishing up her very first paddleboard lesson. It was a "Wish" granted by the Pretty in Pink Foundation. Ann is a cancer survivor and wanted nothing more than to get out on the water. While waiting for Ann, I talked with a Pretty in Pink Foundation staff member, Rosa Petruccelli, about what paddleboarding has meant for me. I asked Rosa if she was a survivor, and she said "Yes, I'm a survivor of many things." We are all survivors of many things. Some people's crosses are harder to bear than others, but everyone has something to overcome. My whole life I've been overweight. I've never been the most athletic or the skinniest. I wish I looked like Gwenyth Paltrow–all flat and chic and mannerly. I am more like Kirstie Alley–huge thighs, a honking laugh, and a dubious sense of fashion. I've said this before but it's worth saying again: paddling is one of the few things I've done in my life, and especially my adult life, where I am 100% accepted for who I am, and with which I feel 100% comfortable. I might seem comfortable with myself, always, but mostly, I'm good at faking it. When I'm on the water, I don't have to fake it. I'm free. Until a boat wake comes by. Luckily, I was the one with Alex and Susan in the back with me this weekend, so that on mile 37 of my 38 when I truly didn't know how I would make it back, they hung around, cheered me on, and rescued my stuff when I fell off in the middle of weekend boat traffic in the ICW. YOU'RE WELCOME, BOAT DRIVERS! I KNOW INVOLUNTARY MANSLAUGHTER WAS SOMETHING YOU HOPED TO CHECK OFF YOUR LIST THIS YEAR!
Falling Off and Getting Back On
There are so many newbies trying out the sport. Some are microscopic and wear teeny bikinis. Some are more like me, or bigger than me. I applaud them all for giving it a whirl. Sunday morning we had one lady paddling for her first time who was so scared she was literally shaking. She was the one who got caught out in the torrential downpour in the middle of Lee's Cut. Well, hell, if you can handle that on your first day out and not fall off, you're golden. Another pair of ladies included somebody a little bigger than me who wanted to learn how to fall off and get back on so that she wouldn't be so nervous about paddling. When you have a lot to heft back onto the board, that's a concern. I know. I've been there. I'm still there some days. She signed up for a lesson so that she could learn. Bravo to her for sticking it out. When she came back in from the lesson, she had a huge grin. "I DID IT!"
For some people, it's Golf
I used to play golf because it was the only thing I could do in the landlocked state of Indiana that would completely take me away from whatever I was thinking about and make me focus. Thankfully now I live near the ocean. If you paddle like it's a job, or if it is your job, I hope you stop to count the rainbows every now and then. It's impossible not to be thankful for life when you have the opportunity to do this every day. Let us not forget how lucky we are.