Thursday, September 22, 2011

Paddle Boarding Excursion

My boyfriend bought me a paddle board for my birthday a couple of months ago.  So, when my co-worker invited me to do a paddle boarding excursion for charity over the weekend, I decided to put my new found skills to the test for a good cause and join her.
Now for those of you that don’t know what paddle boarding is, it’s basically like getting on a surfboard, standing up and paddling through the water.  You can find pictures of trendy people like Jennifer Aniston and Rachel Bilson doing this in the latest pop culture magazines, as it’s becoming quite the fad.  However, there is actually some technique to this sport, which I’m still trying to figure out, and it’s a great core work-out that makes you feel much more physically tired once you’re done doing it rather than while you’re doing it.
Anyway, the course for this event seemed longer and a bit more challenging than what I was used to.  After all, I had simply taken my board out on a few calm evenings to a quiet bay, leisurely paddling around to find some sea creatures before heading back to the beach.  However, the charity event was having boarders paddle from one bay, around a point of land - exposed to the open ocean - then back into another bay.  Technically, the entire race was round trip, but I was only signing myself up to do half.  This was a 3 mile excursion for me, 6 miles for mostly everyone else.
The first challenge of the morning was getting my board from my bedroom to the car and strapping it on top tightly enough for me to make it down to the beach.  This is no easy task considering my board is over 11 feet long and about 30 pounds.  So, I huffed it down the hall and made every effort not to bang into anything as I turned the corner and got it out the front door.  Once at the car, I slid it on top and used about 5 bungee chords to secure this monstrosity to the car.  After 30 minutes I finally had it on without feeling like it was going to slide right off.  I started the car and drove down to the beach.
I got there early so I could register and be ready to go.  Coming from the city, I’m used to these charity type of sporting events consisting of swarms of women decked out in the latest Lululemon gear, pop music pumping on huge speakers, people handing out tons of freebies and a ridiculous amount of sponsorship.  However, when I got to the beach, I had to strain myself to find the check-in tent.  Granted, most people had already checked in at the starting point of the event in the other bay, but still…where were all half-assers like me?     
When I finally found the tent to register, it was pretty simple.  I introduced myself, signed a waiver, handed them my $25 entry fee and bought a raffle ticket for $20.  Typically, I don’t buy raffle tickets, but by the looks of things, I was really liking my odds.  I considered buying two.    
Anyway, my friend joined me shortly thereafter, and we waited for the over-achievers from the other bay to arrive so we could start our journey.  Once it looked like most of the paddlers had made it, people simply began to put their paddles in the water and paddled off back to the other bay.  I wasn’t sure that there was any warning or signal for us to start, but I decided to follow suit. 
The beginning of this trek was pretty enjoyable.  It was a beautiful sunny morning, the water was calm and there was a nice breeze.  I took a moment to take it all in.  As I looked behind me, I realized that I was ahead of about 30 boarders and there were probably 40 ahead of me, including my friend who had quickly made it up to the front and wasn’t to be seen again until the end of the race. 
However, after about 20 minutes of paddling I was getting pretty close to the point of land.  This was where I was exiting one bay, but not quite in the next bay so I was approaching open water.  Since I had to go around the point, this was the closest I got to the rocky coast, and I couldn’t help but notice the waves crashing down hard on the shoreline.   It was at this time that I realized how choppy the water was getting.  The wind and current had picked up and my board was catching some waves.  I could feel myself getting a little nervous and tense, but tried to distract myself by looking at all the nice homes right along the water.  I couldn’t help but wonder how everyone else was staying so calm and balanced on their boards.  I reassuringly reminded myself that this was an event for charity, so they would never put us in harms way.  Regardless, the further out I got into the open water, the harder it was to keep stable on my board.  Out of nowhere, I lost balance and nearly fell off my board.  Slightly terrified, I kneeled down on the board and paddled ahead until I felt comfortable standing up again.  Needless to say, I kneeled down, shaking, for some time.
Now, for those of you that have never paddled before, I’m here to say that when you’re standing, or kneeling in my case, on a board with a paddle in the middle of rocky ocean water, it takes some physical strength to get to your destination.  Since I have very limited physical strength, by the time I got around the point I was exhausted.  Now, there were probably 15 boarders behind me and 55 ahead of me.  However, what really broke me was the sight of a 60-something woman in a lemon-lime green bikini come from behind me out of nowhere, kick it into high gear and blow right by me.  At first I tried to stay ahead of her, but after battling all those waves, I didn’t have it in me.  ‘Good for her’, I thought to myself as I gave up racing her and let her pass by me.     
Alas, after an hour and a half of paddling I made it to the beach and hopped off my board to meet up with my friend, who clearly had done this several times before.  She commented on how well I had done, and I made every effort to pretend like I hadn’t feared for my life at all.  I spent the rest of the day at home, exhausted but feeling accomplished. 

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