‘I wish I had started kayaking sooner,’ is something I hear from my students who are in their 40s, 50s and 60s. Usually said with a heavy dose of disappointment and often because of a swim or some other challenge that arises on the path of learning. I get it. There is a feeling that if only we had started earlier it wouldn’t be so difficult. As we get older our bodies recover a little more slowly and we perhaps don’t have the same range of motion or strength that we did when we were younger. Or perhaps we feel the strongest we’ve ever been and our mental approach is different – a little more conservative and restrained. There is definitely a contrast between a group of fearless kids zipping by a group of older paddlers checking out the rapid. Not that fear doesn’t happen at all ages, but I know for myself, as I’ve gotten older I’ve gotten a little more conservative in my paddling.
Since I started paddling in my late teens/early twenties I had never had that feeling of wishing I had started sooner, until I learned how to SUP surf this year. This new sport hooked me with the fun, the challenge and the sweet feeling of riding a wave. During a week spent in Florida at the BIC SUP ambassador summit I went out every day whether the waves were choppy or good. Some days I got beat down trying to get out past the break expending a lot of energy and getting swirled around with my board tugging at my ankle. On one wipe out off a wave the fin of my board slashed my bathing suit open and gave me a small laceration on my butt. The board made contact with my face and head a few times – lightly thank goodness. Every time I would emerge from the ocean I would have cuts and bruises, but I was stoked to be out there because, regardless of all of that, it was really, really fun.
About a month later I took a trip to Folly Beach, SC to feed my newfound passion and as I was struggling to paddle out one morning I realized I was having the thought that had I started earlier it would be easier. Then I looked around at the sun rising over the water and took a moment to feel the ocean pulsing underneath my board and what came up was a deep feeling of gratitude for having the opportunity to be exactly where I was. How cool is it to learn a new sport at 41 and to feel so energized and passionate? And not just that, but to have the opportunity to paddle with great paddle surfers who are also fantastic instructors, to have the time and resources to take a trip to the beach and have the physical robustness to be out there. These are things that some people never get to experience in their entire lives. My path through life is perfect just as it is and focusing on the gratitude for the opportunity instead of wishing for something different turned the moment from suffering to stoke.
I would rather be 41, cut, bruised and happy SUP surfing than give up the amazing experiences that have made up my life until now. The sport brings me joy, passion, freedom and adventure that lights me up when I’m out there. This energy transfers to my whitewater kayaking, to my work and to the rest of my life. It feeds my vitality. I’ll never be a pro surfer and may never even get proficient at the sport, but that doesn’t matter because at the end of my life the level of proficiency won’t matter as much as the level of joy that it brought me. So for those of you who are a little older and find yourselves feeling disappointed that you didn’t learn how to paddle earlier, take a moment to express gratitude for the opportunity to be out there and let the joy, fun and excitement feed you. It’ll make your experience a whole lot more fun and you’ll inspire those around you with your awesomeness.
If you want to learn how to whitewater kayak or stoke your passion then check out our 2016 calendar! We’re still working on our SUP and SUP yoga schedule so stay tuned!
Photos by Justin Schaay