After a summer spent atop my Stand Up Paddle Board (SUP), with ducks overhead, fish below, and snapping turtles snapping at whatever it is they snap at, I’ve been witness to the annual shift of summer into autumn. The ever so slight change in sunlight from warm to neutral, the trees showing hints of red, and all the neighbors’ inflatable rafts, now deflated and rolled up, their masters back at school. As I get ready to hang up my own SUP for the season (stretched two weeks longer by stubbornness alone), it dawned on me what similarities exist between standup paddle boarding and everyday challenges.
For starters, balance is key. In order to stay upright on an SUP, your feet need to be firmly planted on the board, your weight
distributed evenly. Like in life, you need to be “grounded.” You need a plan, a direction and a determination not to fall into the drink. But in addition to balance, which is mostly non-movement, you also need a generating force or “oomph.” Some days, especially after bicycling, I was too tired to paddle. I had no oomph. However, since my days on Cape Cod were running short, I wanted to take advantage of every available moment, even if it meant pushing myself. Again, like in life.
Balance on an SUP is not just physical. We need to be aware of the wind and the current – two natural forces out of our control – and determine if they will help or hurt us? Being cognizant of these possible obstacles and either navigating around them or dealing with them head-on reflects even another parallel with life.
A few times I underestimated the wind and current and found myself in the middle of a very large, very windy, white capped pond, and me with just a paddle. I was spun around, forced to my knees, trying to calculate the most direct route home. I realized I had to let the paddleboard take its own responsibility, by using its own shape and weight to follow its own direction, all getting me the heck back to shore.
It worked. Once my feet were safely back on sand, I took a few moments for quiet gratitude before heading home, looking forward to resuming the conversation the next day between the pond, the paddleboard and me.