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Two years ago I spotted a person gliding over an inland Michigan lake in a stand up position. It was an odd sight that totally captured my imagination. I was truly mesmerized, for it appeared as if the young man was walking on water. With each stroke he pulled himself gracefully along on the water’s surface. Since it was a distance from shore I was baffled by how he was maintaining his perpendicular position to the lake. What on earth could be supporting him?
My friend who was sitting on the dock beside me causally responded to my bewilderment, “Oh he’s on a stand up paddle boarding. It’s all the rage on the coast.” I continued to gawk thinking, “How difficult it must be. Surely you would tip right over. It must be terribly difficult to maintain your balance standing upright on water!”
With my curiosity peaked I found myself later that evening, on YouTube watching videos of wild paddle boards rides down raging rivers, ocean waves and Nordic seas. I even found a video of a woman doing yoga in the middle of Tampa Bay! This was only for the brave of heart, for those extreme sport people who jump out of air planes or hang glide through mountain gorges. It looked fascinating, but out of my league. Still a quite desire began to simmer and I wanted to have a board of my own
Then it happened. In late summer just as the leaves were turning color, the local sports store was having their big end-of season annual tent sale. There, lying beneath the tent was a deeply discounted red and white SUP board. It had my name all over it. I bought it, it was only the board however, they had completely sold out of paddles. My first experience on the board would have to wait until the next season
In the spring I could hardly wait until I could drag the board on to the beach and try it out. I was surprised at how stable the board performed on water. It was actual quite difficult to flip it over. It wasn’t difficult to fall off the board, especially if you weren’t careful. I quickly learned to find the board’s center. Shifting from a sitting position into a yoga squat, I placed my feet squared over center and very slowly, began to straighten my legs moving into a forward fold. Ever so carefully with my knees still bent I began to rise up and behold, I was standup upright on my very own board for the very first time. In that moment I felt a strong sense of victory!
Soon I was moving forward and backward and then in circles. I was surprised at how much energy I needed just to hold the standing position. If at any time if I felt unstable I would just drop to my knees and paddle in a kneeling position where my center of gravity was much lower and the board was easier to control.
I experimented with some yoga postures such as downward facing dog, pigeon, camel, squats and boat. I discovered that if I could center my weight over the meridian of the board it was just like practicing on my mat. In fact I believe practicing on the paddle board helped improved awareness of my alignment.
Soon I found my favorite position. It was lying flat on my back. I loved more than anything than to float close to shore and gaze up at the clouds and let my thoughts just float away. The waves gently rocked the board back and forth creating a meditative experience that I would return to again and again. It might be great to stand up and paddle but I’ll take the gentle experience of the “ lay down” board. Maybe I wasn’t in that league after all.