I grew up in the Inland Empire area, so a beach day was not a normal part of my life. If we did go to the beach, it was for the entire day. And I wasn’t allowed to go into the water past my knees, ever! Needless to say, it was truly a gift to me to spend a whole day during the summer hanging out, roasting my skin under the blazing sun, and just feeling free from the world’s worries. Year after year, I would tell myself that if I ever got the chance to live by the beach, I would find every possible way to touch the ocean water every single day of my life.
A few years after college, I moved to Huntington Beach. And like any happily ever after story, I even lived walking distance from the ocean. You would think that I would have kept my promise and spent at least all my non-working days at the beach. On the contrary, for years, I would only drive on PCH and have to remind myself to look at the beautiful ocean. When I did look, I would glance at the people in the water wondering how they could stand the cold freezing temperature of the ocean. At a stop light, I actually remembered asking myself, “When did the ocean water turn too cold for me in June?” Embarrassingly enough, I have to admit that there would be summers that would pass by and I didn’t even touch the ocean water once, which is extremely odd since I married a surfer.
My husband constantly says to me, “I have to be in the ocean otherwise I will dehydrate and die!” It’s so apparent that he loves the ocean in a whole different way than I do. I can tell when he needs to just allow the ocean water to touch his skin and wash away the stress from a long work week. Often, he comes home after an amazing surf sessions and describes the feeling of being a part of nature. He tells me about swimming with the dolphins, watching the sun rise, and the feeling of peace that comes with just being in the present moment as he sits and waits for a great wave. I, on the other hand start thinking, “How can I be in the present moment if all I can think about is being eaten by a shark, or being sucked into one of the giant rolling waves? And what about all those jelly fish waiting to sting me?”
Last year after hurricane Marie hit off the coast of Mexico, the swells changed the local sandbar. Local surfers went into shock from lack of viable waves to surf. My husband became so frustrated about the situation; he was left with only 3 options: 1) Wait it out and suffer tremendously 2) start driving further away to find a wave, versus riding his bike to surf or 3) start joining the Stand Up Paddling (SUP) crowd and create different options for adventure. I had no idea that choosing the 3rd option would not only change my health and life, but our entire relationship with one another.
My husband quickly learned that he would need two types of boards to begin his new adventure. He wanted a bigger one to practice in the harbor and a smaller one for the ocean. And once he learned the tricks of the sport, he no longer needed the practice board. So to ease the guilt of buying 2 boards, he suggested something I thought was extremely crazy. He invited ME to try out SUP with him. I was determined not to like the sport so I could just stay in my “ocean fear” mode forever. But, after reluctantly watching a 15 min video on SUP, I hopped onto a stand up paddle board in Huntington Harbor and fell in love! A few minutes of panic took over, but I managed to stay on board. Several minutes went by and calmness rolled through my body. I finally got my mind and body to work together. And then was able to paddle over 2 miles. I was hooked! Thus began my journey as a Stand Up Paddle Boarder.
Although I have yet to go out into the “real” ocean, I can now share in my husband’s appreciation for being one with nature. I’ve experienced listening to shear quietness, I’ve observed birds singing and flying in total formation, and seeing the beauty of different colors reflecting against the water during the sunrise and sunset. And I’ll admit that it’s thrilling trying to locate a new place to paddle and launch off.
The biggest and best part of starting this adventure with my husband is that it’s become a weekly family activity. We also bring our 3 year Spanish Water Dog, Lula, with us. She loves it so much; we had to buy a 3rd foamy board just for her to use.
Stand up paddle boarding has truly been a gift for me. I’ve lost weight and toned up my body. I’ve lessened my fears (still working on conquering it) of the ocean water. And I feel (at least) a few steps closer to nature. It’s allowed my husband and I to spend more quality time together. And we are each other’s biggest cheerleader in becoming stronger, mentally and physically. I feel blessed that I have been able to keep my childhood promise. Happy Stand Up Paddle Boarding!