“Um so you’re telling me that I go on a “tiny” floatable board in the middle of the ocean?” I asked my ocean lover boyfriend.
My voice was trembling with nervous energy. I’ve never stepped foot into the ocean. I grew up in a small town in Missouri. Every detail I learned about the wonder and depths of the ocean was from the famous and overly dramatic movie series, Jaws. All I gathered from those movies was the ocean was enormous, dangerous and filled with Sharks that will eat you alive.
And in that moment all those thoughts began haunting my frightened brain. I found my head filled with all the questions of what if. What if I flip the Paddleboard? What if I cannot stand up? What if the waves are too much to handle? And the biggest what if that haunted my fearful brain was, what if I see a shark or a dolphin or a string ray and I fall in?
I was absolutely terrified of the big bluish green sea, but I wasn’t going to allow my “fears” to ruin my new experience.
I was always taught that what scares you the most in life will become the most valuable lesson or adventure, if you overcome the obstacle.
So I closed my petrified eyes, took a big deep breathe, and told my overly optimistic boyfriend, “Okay, I am ready to go in.”
As I walked up to the door and entered the blue building, my whole body trembling, I was greeted by the happiest voice. “How can I help you guys today?” The smilie tall man asked my boyfriend and I. I quietly and nervously said, “We have a reservation to Paddleboard today. He’s paddled, but I’ve never been before.”
The tall man smiled and calmly said, “Well that’s no problem. Everyone can Paddleboard!”
Little did the man know that I was absolutely frantic about the entire ocean. But I smiled, nodded and anxiously said, “I cannot wait!”
My nerves were shooting across my entire body and butterflies were beginning to overtake.
The tall man calmly began explaining the route we should take and explained the rules and regulations in great detail. Surprisingly this helped calm my rapidly floating butterflies. As he finished up and asked if we had any more questions, I once again began letting the haunting thoughts overtake.
And then I heard the kind man say, “Remember to relax and have fun!” So I closed my hazel eyes, took a deep breathe, and reminded myself that I was capable of overcoming this adventure.
As I stepped onto the swaying, large, brown dock, I found myself starring out at the North Causeway canal. “How could something so beautiful be so overwhelmingly frightening?” I thought to myself. I couldn’t believe I was about to be smack in the middle of this beauty.
As I watched the intro lesson, the tall man made paddleboarding seem extremely easy and inviting. However, I wasn’t convinced just yet that paddleboarding would as easy as he claimed it to be.
My legs began shaking as it became my turn to navigate my body onto this Paddleboard. The tall man asked if I was ready, I couldn’t even speak, so I nodded my head and began kneeling down on the floating dock.
I sat there for what seemed like a century, starring at the huge pink yolo board, questioning how this material would be able to stay afloat.
Again I didn’t want to look like a complete chicken, so I slowly scooted my way onto the pink board, one knee at a time.
The board swayed back and forth slowly, however, in that moment I found myself stable and at ease. I smiled at the kind and patient man, grabbed the black aluminum paddle, and pushed myself away from the dock.
I couldn’t believe I was actually in the ocean. I looked up, still on my knees, and began paddling towards the North Causeway Canal.
The canal was absolutely breathtaking. The sky was bright blue and the water reflection illuminated the white fluffy clouds above perfectly. Complete bliss.
While I looked out at the peaceful, beautiful, and humbled skies, I heard a huge SPLASH! I jumped and began scoping out all the wonders around me. I saw nothing for a few moments, and then the SPLASH became louder, and I heard my other half scream, “Look Brit, Dolphins!”
Fear instantly overtook my body. And the major what if came floating back into my brain, “What if I fall in?” I wasn’t going to allow the panic to consume my first Paddleboard experience, so I slowly sat down on my knees, put the black aluminum paddle on my board, and sat there silently and calmly. SPLASH! I looked over my shoulder, and that’s when I saw a huge gray, leathery, yet beautiful body gracefully swim up and down right next to the pink yolo board. Completely unaware of my existence.
As I watched these glamorous creatures gracefully swim through their natural wonders, my heart began exploding with an heartwarming emotion. My tensed body slowly drained out the fear, while the calm cool winds against my pale freckled face helped my overdramatic breathing slow and become one with the ocean.
My body finally felt at peace. Now that my heart rate slowed, my confidence began to rise, and the curiosity began to sink in.
As the majestic dolphins swam towards the famous Pink Bridge, and we followed the beauties down the canal. I found myself becoming more confident in my ability to paddle. Every stroke was less intimidating and the board’s stability helped my confidence that much more. I knew this was the moment to try and stand up on the pink yolo Paddleboard.
I replayed the directions multiple times to myself, “Make sure your knees are between the handle, put the paddle in front of you, look up at the glorious horizon, take a deep breathe, and slowly raise one knee at a time. And most importantly remain calm.”
After about a million of girl power moments in my overwhelmed yet excited head, I finally had enough courage to take the risk. I closed my eyes one last time, took the final deep anxious breathe, and followed the directions carefully and slowly. As I pushed my body up towards the horizon, I found my stomach fluttering away. In that moment complete joy ran from my head to my toes, I was actually walking on water. I accomplished a task I was told could never be done.
And best of all I conquered a fear that tormented my brain since I was a young child.
While the calm, greenish blue waves, slowly crushed underneath the pink board, I found myself smiling from one rose cheek to the next.
As my sparkling smile spread through my entire body, I realized that I never wanted to lose this sense of wonder. I wanted the illuminating feeling to last forever. Who knew that the ocean, which I was terrified of, would be the absent part of my life I desperately craved. And crazy enough the “tiny” floatable board provided that opportunity.
I slowly paddled my way towards the large, brown, floating dock. As I slowly put my body back to its knees, I gazed at the sea around me one last time.
I never wanted to lose the feeling that brought me to life that glorious Sunday mid afternoon. So I made a promise to myself that I would do whatever it took to achieve that heartwarming feeling once again.
And through years of wonders and sorrows, I’ve finally found my bliss.
That scared paled freckled face girl no longer stands in my reflection today. All I see while I stare into my hazel eyes, is a girl that promised herself joy, and achieved just that by becoming a Paddleboard instructor herself, working for the same smilie tall man that helped her all those years back.
Life truly has a funny way of saving your soul if you allow it…