Smash. The cold flush of water shocks my lungs into spasm. Gravity tugs my head under. My ankles flick instinctively, pushing me up, up, up until I can gulp in the air.
I fell in. Within moments of straightening my legs, paddle in hand, I fell in. I felt stupid. Like I could do better. Like everyone was watching and mocking me – at my inability to balance. I missed knowing what I was doing. I missed the familiar feeling of confidence. I missed my comfort zone.
But just as the instant chill of Cornwall’s September seas faded after seconds, so too did my sense of inadequacy. Because it turned out falling in rocked. Sure, it wasn’t where I’d planned to be, but being in the sea with shards of late afternoon sunlight spearing the water all around me was refreshing, eye-opening even inspiring. It gave me the motivation to get back on and get better.
And it turns out I wasn’t alone. Everyone was feeling the same. Our group expedition stand-up paddle boarding (SUP) around the Lizard coastline pushed us all out of our comfort zones.
Gravity tugs my head under. My ankles flick instinctively, pushing me up, up, up until I can gulp in the air.
Thanks to Chris from Roam Cornwall , over the course of an afternoon we went from wobbling on our knees, to teetering on the balls of our feet, to standing, scooping down with our paddles and cutting across the surface of the water from Porthallow cove to the mouth of the Helford and back again.
Chris helped us all to laugh with every tumble. Coached us all to master our technique, encouraged us to explore the nooks, gulleys and caves of the cliffs. Striking out across open water there, clinging to the coastline for shelter from the wind on the way back. Wallowing in the shallows staring up into the infinite sky not wanting to get out. Throughout the session we all fell in. We all felt the wash of cold water. We all relished it.
And the more we fell, the more we learnt. The more we wanted to do it again.
So yes, experience is important. Yes, skills and expertise are valuable. Yes, talent and insight count for a lot. But sometimes, when the opportunity presents itself, when the sun is shining, when someone offers you a paddle and a promise they’ll help you find your balance – well then you just have to take the leap. Fall in. Get back on. Learn.
Looking for a life lesson? SUP on that.