When I tell people about our new business venture, Stand Up Pittsburgh, most of them say “Wow, that’s cool”. Then in the next breath they begin telling me all of the reasons why they will never paddle board; I have terrible balance, my arms are too weak, I’m not a strong swimmer, I don’t really like the water, I have low back pain, my knees are bad, etc… and the list goes on.
I have to admit that when my husband first began to talk about stand up paddle boarding I said all of those same things. I have never really been a water lover. I can swim and I enjoy the ocean (as long as I don’t get wet above my ankles) but I don’t really like the idea of fish swimming around me and the possibility of snakes sends a chill up my spine. In my youth I would swim in lakes, oceans, rivers, wherever! But now that I am older and wiser all of that is less enticing. I have had back problems for years and spent many an afternoon hanging out with my physical therapist. My balance has never been great and I don’t have a strong upper body. It is for all of these reasons that I LOVE paddle boarding.
The first time I tried paddle boarding I was SCARED. Looking back, I can’t figure out why. My husband was with me, I had on my PFD (personal flotation device) and it was a warm, beautiful day. I mounted the board and spent a moment or two on my knees while my loving and patient husband gave me some pointers. I began telling him to shut up immediately, because I just needed to concentrate! When I stood on the board I felt the water shifting beneath me and my thighs immediately stiffened up. Standing still was an odd feeling so I began to paddle a bit. I was moving through the water and trying to get my bearings. I paddled a bit on the left, then switched hands and paddled to the right. I could feel how paddling steered me and I felt infinitely more balanced. I headed out on the warm lake water which, much to my dismay, was a bit green and had the slight smell of goose droppings. I DID NOT want to fall in. I paddled a few more strokes on each side but I was tense. Then, a gust of wind caught me and I couldn’t readjust quick enough and into the water I went. I was wearing a PFD so of course I didn’t even get my hair wet and I easily climbed back onto my board. That was the best thing that happened that day. Falling into the water made me realize that falling into the water was the worst thing that could happen. And, it just happened to be hot enough that a little cool down in the lake was not so bad at all.
As I continue to paddle I find that the other excuses such as low back pain and non-existent upper body strength are actually being fixed. My abs have become stronger and the pain in my back has become less. The great workout for my upper body helps to keep my arms and shoulders looking firm. My balance has definitely improved and the peacefulness that I experience while paddle boarding has helped my overall mindset.
And as for my fear of fish, snakes and other slimy creatures, that still exists and I doubt it will ever go away completely. I do find, however that when I am out on that water, in their “home” I find I can almost tolerate their presence. I wonder what they think about me?