Paddle Boarding is one of my favorite outdoor pastimes. I love the tranquility, the core work out, the challenges, and the solitude. The sound of the water rushing past me and the simple soothing trickle of water gliding across my paddle puts me into a rhythm with nature and a calming, creative space in my mind. The occasional bald eagle, otter, turtle, or fish that shares the lake with me, only adds to the soothing beauty.
Sometimes an activity that resonates with us brings insight and perspective. Hiking in the wilderness, salsa dancing, gardening, floating in a sensory deprivation tank, knitting, and paddle boarding are a few of my favorite activities that inevitably teach or remind me of important life truths.
These particular activities allow my mind to become uncluttered and are the things that most often provide me with uninterrupted opportunity for insight, revelation, meditation, reflection, prayer, and a deeper understanding or reminder of what’s truly important. As a Master Life Coach, I am constantly reminded by my own life and the lives of many of my clients, how staying/getting back on track requires focusing, perspective, intention, commitment, and taking action. And sometimes that action is as simple as the act of doing nothing, or becoming silent with nature.
Here are a just a few things that Stand Up Paddle Boarding helps me to remember:
- Perspective…Paddle boarding reminds me that perspective is everything. While I love swimming, boating, and kayaking, the vantage point from 5-6 feet above the water, while standing on a paddle board, provides a clarity that other vantage points just won’t. In clear, pure alpine lakes I can often see over a hundred feet to the bottom. But even in the murkier lakes, I see things differently. I see the bigger picture. I see more. So it is, with life, also.
- Persistence…There are times when I set out to paddle board around the lake that I live on. It’s about 5 miles around the perimeter and on a day without much wind it takes me about an hour. There are days I get started and a head wind kicks up. Sometimes what started out as a smooth trip on a flat lake, quickly turns into an outing of dodging and overcoming wakes from a speed boat or simply rowing hard against the wind. A lot like life, I can choose to take the wake head on or ride over it as gracefully as possible. I either choose to take it on, standing up, or sit/kneel to take it more cautiously. But whichever stance I choose, I remind myself to stay fully committed, dig in with my oar for stability and never give up. It’s always worth it in the end whether with paddle boarding or anything worth mastering or conquering.
- Balance is Everything…It takes practice to find balance especially when things get taxing. The right stance, foundation, and perspective help me achieve this. Paddle boarders, much like dancers and skaters know, the direction you look, is usually the direction you’ll go. Keeping my stance balanced is paramount. I’ve tried paddle boarding with water shoes but prefer bare feet. I can feel the board, feel the water, and my foundation is solid. I can perceive, quickly, when a small correction must be made, before it becomes too enormous to manage. Balancing is always easiest when the water is smooth but can be accomplished with extra effort and planning when things get gnarly. There are off days when balance is difficult. Things happen, sometimes beyond our control. That’s okay. The key is to accept it, learn from it, and keep moving forward. This is yet another life parallel, we all need to remember.
- Prioritization or Do the Hardest Tasks First…I plan my route much like I do when I hike or when I used to own an airplane, based on headwinds and weather. Like most things in life, it behooves us to take on the most challenging tasks first. The sense of accomplishment energizes us and a common sense approach to get the big stuff out of the way first, typically allows us a better chance at pacing ourselves. Like hiking up hill to a summit, there’s a simple pleasure in knowing the hardest part is behind us. Paddling is similar to life, in that we need to conserve our energy for the duration, so we must remember to save, pace, and invest our energy wisely to finish the race.
- Remain Assertive…Assertiveness is not negative and comes from a place of power, self-control, and wisdom. There is a season to relax when the waters are calm and equally important is the ability to recognize when we must assert ourselves rather than letting the waves overcome us. Assertive people assume a relaxed and open posture and expression, reach goals without harming others, and are willing to do what is necessary to achieve a healthy outcome for all. Standing up for our needs is not aggressive, but rather, necessary. It’s called “Stand Up” paddle boarding for more reasons than one.
If you haven’t tried it, I encourage giving it a go to see what speaks to you.
There are so many more parallels to life when it comes to this peaceful yet engaging and challenging sport. Safety, preparedness, stewardship, mindfulness, endurance, and many more attributes come from simply communing with nature atop a paddle board.