I love my family, love spending time laughing and working through troubles with friends, getting that sense of accomplishment with co-workers and team-mates, and glimpsing into stranger’s lives as I people-watch- but all that interaction can leave a space that can only be filled by spending time with myself. I hunger for that bit of time to unplug, unwind, to have a quiet moment where I can focus or space out, where nobody wants anything from me. There are a lot of ways that people like to relax- a long shower or bubbly bath, a full body massage with nature sounds playing, a long walk on the beach… Me, I like to take my Stand Up Paddleboard out to the beach by our home and paddle out.
It is one thing to sit at the ocean-side and stare out at the water, but a completely different level of fulfillment to be in that place instead of looking at it- surrounded by the most natural source of calming white noise. As water-resistant as devices are nowadays and as fun as selfies are to post, I usually leave my phone in the car for the simplicity of it. I can’t hear my kids even if they are on the beach with dad, no pings or beeps about some urgently trivial problem, nobody is vying for my attention- I get to finally have myself all for myself. I let go and relax my mind, almost like blowing raspberries with my thoughts- deep breath and bbbbbbppppppppppoooosh. Bam- I feel lighter and calmer already, my mind just needed to take a deep breath of fresh salty sea breeze. The relaxation candles by the same name have nothing on this.
As I wade out to my knees and drop my board, shove off and transition up to my feet it is often my intention to just leisurely paddle about, just to get out. Within a minute or two my inner athlete has taken over and I feel my strokes get stronger, more intentionally placed, and I am looking at the crab trap buoys like targets to race to and challenge my pivot turn skills. My heart starts pounding, my core is putting off some serious heat and I can feel my shoulders and quads toning. It is well documented that physical exercise positively effects our mood, reduces our stress hormones and increases our intellectual capabilities, so Bam Pow, Double whammy win for paddling out to heal what ails me!
When I get far enough out and I need a second to catch my breath I often look up and see, almost like for the first time, the absolute natural beauty of our bay. The islands in the distance distinguished by countless shades of blue, the waves with their discrete pattern of tide return tracing out, and the sky casting out as many cloud creatures as a daydreamer can imagine. It is a good place to sit or lay, bobbing about and taking it all in. More often than not I am surprised by some marine visitor- just a small sample of the infinite possibilities that live below- a curious sea lion, a sizeable dancing jelly, a pair of porpoises circling around, much like myself just looking for a fresh breath of air. The very first time I paddled out alone I was terrified when I saw a sea lion pop up to say hello- I dropped down on my belly and my heart jumped into my throat as I realized that my top notch swimming skills were likely pitiful compared to this finned fellow. My husband even added a dive knife to my PFD, “just in case”. I have long since taken it off as I have embraced the encounters and now replaced that feeling of nauseating panic with reflection and a sense of spirituality and wonder. Sitting out on my 10 foot board and imagining a 100 ft long blue whale down there somewhere really takes me out of my everyday, pushes pause and puts it all back into perspective. There are many Psalms and other writings about seeking solitude and opening our hearts- floating out in the watery wilderness is my sanctuary away from all the noise, troubles and minutiae. Biff, Bam, Pow- the perfect trifecta for recharging mind body and soul.