Giving Thanks for Our Paddle Life
If y’all are anything like me, you’ve spent the last few days trying to figure out when and how you are going to sneak out to get your Thanksgiving Day paddle in, perhaps before the day of cooking, celebrating and turkey eating commences or perhaps after or in between the green bean casserole and the pumpkin pie. But even if you can’t get out on the water today, there is so much to be thankful for in our paddle world.
Places to Paddle
I am so thankful that there are still wonderful places to paddle – both nearby and a far- and that I am able to take advantage of where I live, and can explore new waterways here as well as discover new rivers, surf breaks and downwind runs. This year, I was lucky enough to get to spend time furthering my relationships with two gorges – the Columbia River Gorge and the Tennessee River Gorge, and although I’ve always considered myself an ocean girl, I discovered that I really do love rivers.
As we paddle new places and discover new natural wonders, it becomes more and more imperative that much needs to be done to protect these precious waterways. Without them, we have nothing. And I am not just talking about losing places in which to dip our blades. Without water, we do not have life. I am so thankful for the people in our sport who work tirelessly to communicate the need to be good stewards of our oceans, lakes and rivers. And for the companies that back those people.
I am also thankful that I love an activity that keeps me healthy, both physically and mentally. It can be the most stressful, awful day but once I get out on the water, it all floats away and things seem more manageable. And I am thankful that it’s an activity that allows me so many opportunities to challenge myself, to push my perceived limits and to continually try something new, whether it’s sup surfing, or outrigger paddling, or surf ski paddling. It all works together, Those learning opportunities feed my soul.
Spreading the Stoke
I am also extremely thankful for the opportunity I have been given professionally to introduce people to paddling and to help educate folks about all facets of our sport. I was fortunate enough to have another amazing year of teaching for REI. Nothing could be more rewarding. Seeing my students leave the lake with big smiles on their faces or having students come into the store later because they are excited about continuing to paddle and they want more help is the best feeling in the world. My fellow Outdoor School instructors and my REI family – well, they are amazing. And I am so thankful to be connected to those folks. And for the fact that they put up with my obsession.
I am also extremely thankful for the continued opportunity and trust Distressed Mullet publisher John Beausang has given me to use this site as a way to help people paddle better, safer and with as much stoke as possible.
The Real Deal
But, at the end of the day, like I have written so many times before, it is the people who make this paddle life so amazing. The ohana in Maui. The PNW paddlers. The Tennessee/Georgia crew, and the Florida gang. The Californians – both Northern and Southern. The landlocked Arizonans. The Canadians and Midwesterners. The New Englanders and New Yorkers and other paddlers in Northern climes. And the friends in New Zealand, India, Australia and South Africa, Greece, Britain and Switzerland and beyond – some who are dear, old friends, and some whom I’ve never met in person but feel like I have known all my life. We are indeed connected by water.
And then there’s the hometown crew. And I use that term broadly. Hometown to me means my Raleigh paddlers, as well my coastal friends, and my friends who live even farther inland in North Carolina than I do. And I’ll even extend that circle of ohana to the wonderful folks in South Carolina, too. These are the paddlers I get to spend time with the most. They are there for the epic surf sessions, or grinding Graveyard practices and the even more epic taco sessions afterward. They are there with moral support anytime it’s needed. And they are always there at the finish line of every local race, ready with a hug and a smile. Or even to hold my hand and keep my mind off the fact that Ocean Rescue is patching me up on the beach ’cause I’ve seriously hurt myself. Love and hugs, y’all…and I can’t wait to get back out on the water with y’all!
Wishing all our paddle ohana a wonderful, happy and water-filled Thanksgiving!