I have paddle boarded in lakes and oceans by the side of playful dolphins, a curious manatee, and a world of aquatic wonderment both seen and unseen.
Last summer, my daughter and I paddled near a school of feeding tarpon – to this day my daughter swears up and down they were sharks. They weren’t sharks, they were tarpon. Big tarpon, but tarpon!
If you ever get the opportunity to stand up paddle board, you absolutely should. A lot of people call is SUP boarding. Oh, who am I kidding, I just made that up because it reminds me of Crush, the turtle in Finding Nemo.
Honestly, I have heard a few people call it that, so that’s what I’ll call it in this blog.
Here are three reasons why SUP boarding is worth a try (See important safety information at the end of this article please*):
1- There are many ways to SUP board
Unlike canoeing, kayaking, jet skiing, or other partaking in a sport on other water vessels, you can stand, sit or lie down on a SUP board.
Now you are probably thinking, but hey, wait a second, doesn’t the name of the board suggest that you have to stand up on the board. That’s part of the beauty of SUP boarding. You can rebel against the system and sit down. Dude, you can even lie down. Some boards have built-in chairs so you can fish off your SUP board.
The paddle is adjustable so you can shorten it for those times when you want to just be you and sit on your SUP board.
Stand up and paddle for a few miles if you prefer, and then lie down and take a nap.
It’s all good!
Don’t feel like sitting, lying, or standing? Then, dude, you can kneel in vajrasana. Speaking of vajrasana, you can even do yoga on your SUP board!
SUP boards maintain their balance so you can change your mind on what position you prefer. That creates a much more free feeling that you don’t get in, say, a kayak.
2- SUP boarding is virtually silent, leaving space for tranquility and peace.
There is no loud motor coughing up the air with a SUP board. The only sound is your paddle dipping quietly into the water.
Maybe there is an occasional curse word if you lose your balance while attempting a headstand on your board. Maybe.
Maybe there is an occasional, “Oh my GOD, MOM, THOSE ARE SHARKS,” coming from your paddle companion. Maybe.
For the most part, it’s just you and nature.
A few weeks back, I was out on the lake paddle boarding with my husband. A great blue heron flew by, and we were able to hear the woosh-woosh of his giant wings as he traveled over us. We breathed in the sound, feeling the energy of his flight.
3- When you are on your SUP board, you’re one with the water.
When you are standing, sitting, kneeling or lying down on your SUP board, there are only a few small inches between you and the water.
You might not be able to walk on water, but with a SUP board, you can stand on water.
When I had the lucky experience a few years ago of paddling beside five dolphins, I was so close to the water that I could feel their massive strength as they swam. Although I wasn’t swimming with them, I had the experience of being one with them.
Once, a manatee’s curiosity with me and my board allowed me to be one with his world. As I paddled, he’d peek his head out of the water and stare at me before submerging his head, body, then his giant tail.
I am pretty sure my daughter wished we were the height of an ocean liner when we encountered the tarpon on a feeding frenzy. Instead, we were inches from the water.
When you are on the water, there’s a whole world below you: a world of aquatic wonderment. Being so close to the water helps you feel connected to that amazing world.
The quiet of the SUP board helps increase your awareness in the present moment.
The ability to just be you on the board adds a sense of freedom to the overall experience.
Go on. Give it a try. Dude, SUP board!
* When possible, don’t SUP board alone. Always bring (or even better, wear) a life jacket. Always carry a bottle of water on your board. Wear sunscreen. Make sure you keep your cell phone and keys in a waterproof container that floats in case you fall while working on your hip hop moves (not that that has ever happened to me). Don’t mess with aquatic animals, just let them be.
Learning life’s cadence isn’t always easy. It’s not always clear when to sit back and relax in life and when to take action. The ocean knows when to ebb and flow, but for me, it takes a calm mind and at times, trial and error to feel that rhythm.
The Water’s Edge
It was a warm Christmas day in Florida two years ago, and the nine kids were to stay out of the ocean. I sat my chair in the sand and felt instant comfort as the chair sunk under my weight.
Quickly, nine children were in my personal space.
“OK, OK, you can go in the water, but ONLY ankle deep,” I told them.
I hadn’t finished the word “deep” before the nine were racing to the water’s edge.
It took less than five minutes before they were completely soaked in the clear calm ocean water.
They weren’t in any physical danger, but I cringed at the yelling my sisters would do – mainly to me.
“You know we didn’t bring any towels, Laurie.”
“You know we have to go eat Christmas dinner, Laurie.”
“We asked you to watch them, Laurie.”
The yelling would come, but for the moment, I sat and watched my daughters and seven of their cousins exuberantly playing in the ocean in their Christmas clothes, and I felt a sense of calm and peace that comes when you watch children being joyful.
Sometimes we all need to sit back, other times we must flow forward, like the gentle ocean tide before me on that warm Christmas day.
Ebb and Flow.
Knowing when to ebb and when to flow isn’t always easy.
Many of us feel that in order to survive this world we live in we must always be in constant surge mode.
I’m not so sure that’s true.
When the ocean is in constant surge or flow, we have a tsunami on our hands with massive destruction and casualties.
Ebb and Flow.
One of my sisters and I went to see a talk given by Deepak Chopra a few months ago. This sister is a huge fan of Deepak Chopra, so after the event, we waited in line to get his autograph.
It was a long line.
There were about 40 people in front of us when Deepak Chopra, or DC as his fans call him, got up and was ushered out.
We took a deep breath, didn’t become offended that he left before the line was finished, and slowly walked out of the building towards the parking garage a few streets over.
It’s OK that we didn’t get to meet him, we told ourselves. DC gave a great talk, and we felt lucky to be with each other in the big city.
Turning the corner, we found ourselves walking down an empty side street.
We kept our gentle pace and talked through the beautiful still night, resisting the urge to surge forward.
Suddenly, an unmarked door opened on the side of the building, and two people walked through the door landing right in front of us.
Ebb and Flow.
It was Deepak Chopra and a security guard.
In amazement, we stopped, and the four of us stared at each other.
I guess they didn’t expect anyone to be walking up to the door right as they opened it.
I asked, “May I speak to you?”
Deepak immediately held out his hand and took a step towards us.
Ebb and Flow.
We took turns shaking his hand, talking to him, and enjoying the moment life had presented us.
He was happy and friendly, and we felt a glee similar to what it must feel like to be a child and play in the ocean water in Christmas clothes.
After a few minutes of friendly banter, Deepak and his security guard walked on.
Ebb and Flow.
Learning when to ebb and when to flow in life takes practice, and I don’t always get it right.
I don’t get to handle tools much in my household, and here’s why.
For our first home, I thought the space above the kitchen cabinets would be perfect for my basket collection.
Here’s the thing: there was no space above the kitchen cabinets.
So, I took a hammer and started smashing the wall above the cabinet. My husband quickly intervened. He ran into the kitchen upon hearing my work in progress and removed the tool from my hand saying, “No.”
“But, this space needs to be opened up because I want to place my baskets there,” I argued.
Evidently, that’s not the way kitchen demos are supposed to work. My husband muttered something about pipes and a huge mess, and now he was going to have to drywall my handy-work. He hates working with drywall, by the way.
I should not have been surging or even flowing with that project, which required a whole lot of thought and ebb.
The Ebb and Flow Principle
We learn life’s cadence the fastest when our minds are calm. That calmness doesn’t always happen, which leaves trial and error.
It would be nice if life gave us a sign telling us when to ebb and when to flow. It doesn’t, though. Instead of a sign, we have the gentle push and pull of the ocean’s tide as a constant reminder that sometimes in life we have to ebb, and sometimes we flow.