I love the mountains, but I was born in the water.
Throughout my life, it has called to me. It beckons me to its cool depths; it relieves me from the weight of the world.
I learned to swim well at a young age. My older brother taunted me, “Sharks live in the deep end,” before he pushed my head under water. I quickly learned to escape. I’d kick myself free and skim the pool floor, eventually surfacing in the safety of the shallow end.
A scrawny, awkward child, I never found interest in the team sports my siblings played. Instead, I found joy in the water. I spent summers in the pool, and days ended with wrinkly skin and sun-drenched hair.
I dominated the neighborhood swim meets and quickly graduated to the competitive ranks of a year-round team. I lived and breathed chlorine until a serious injury forced me to land for several years.
I learned to run and slowly grew to love it. I became a strong runner.
I cover miles in respectable paces. I descend single track with wild abandon. But no one has ever accused me of being graceful. My stride is short; my feet turn out; my shoulders creep up.
It’s different in the water. My stroke is smooth; my kick, powerful; my motion, effortless.
When pregnancy rendered running into an unrecognizable shuffle, I’d still glide through the pool with ease. I mourned the day I could no longer flip turn, but I swam on, lap after lap. The water cradled my body and lightened my load.
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I didn’t discover Stand-Up Paddle (SUP) boarding until I was 30. A week after my birthday, we landed in Kona for two weeks on the Big Island.
We decided to rent boards and see the island from the water. After gaining our sea legs in choppy surf, we paddled Kealakekua Bay to Captain Cook Monument. The translucent waters teemed with coral and tropical fish. Spinner dolphins leapt from the water, mere yards away.
The next morning, as our daughter slept, we stole away and paddled A’bay in the predawn hours. The only souls we encountered were mellow honu (sea turtles) who didn’t mind sharing the smooth currents with us.
We were hooked.
SUP is the perfect harmony between my two worlds: earth and water.
Years of ankle-twisting single track help me balance on the board; decades of swimming give me the shoulders and core to propel myself through the water.
It’s the solidity of the board beneath my feet and the fluidity of the water beneath the board. From my perch above the water, I see the earth in a new way. I feel the water lapping below me, and I feel at home.
# # #
Last December, we shared our passion with our daughters, in hopes they would find joy in it, too.
At the dock in Key West, I watched with pride as my oldest nimbly sprang from her knees and easily planted her feet on my husband’s board. I kneeled on my board and stretched out my hand to my youngest. She grabbed my hand without hesitation and stepped aboard.
Legs crossed Indian style, my normally rambunctious, raucous second born sat in hushed silence as we paddled into the mangrove tunnels.
She touched the prickly sea stars in wonder. She belly laughed at a sea cucumber spraying salt water in self-defense. Her eyes widened to saucers at tens of thousands of Cassiopea jelly fish swaying gently on the sea floor, awestruck by their semblance to shimmering snowflakes.
We exited the mangroves and paddled across the channel to a swimming hole. In the perfect metaphor for parenthood, we were caught completely off guard when our girls launched themselves from our boards without warning. We could only laugh as the boards rocked beneath us and we struggled to regain our balance.
My daughters giggled and shouted, splashed and swam.
Like me, they were born in the water. And it calls them home.