Vacation winds down and not a surprised my flight is delayed. Gives me a the perfect opportunity to write the post I have been drafting in my head since this morning.
The past 6 and half days have been filled with sun, sand and the ocean. This morning I donned my bathing suit for the last time. Lathered up in sunscreen and for extra protection, added my rash guard to my look. Put on my ball cap and sunglasses and started to walk across the beach to the water sports pavillion.
This has been my routine for the past 6 mornings, and finally the water sport guys have figured it out. I was met half way with my lifejacket.
“Yes, the last one.”
He measured the paddle for me and while I walked into the water, he pulled out my board. I jumped up and he attached the ankle strap for me.
“Remember to stay where I can see you.”
I looked at him, smiled and he smiled in return. “I know,” he says. “You will be going out far. Just make sure I can see you.”
I get to my feet, find my balance before the next wave comes, and start the 700 metre paddle out to the first buoy.
Instantly I sense that today’s paddle will be different. While it was windy on the beach, it was not as windy on the water.
Every day my paddles have had a very familiar feeling. Hard, seemingly soul crushing. Every day I battled the wind and the waves coming at me from the right, while paddling on the left just to keep a straight line and get out to the buoy. With each and every paddle stroke, I was so thankful for the hundreds of lat rows, lat pull downs and chin ups that I have done over the past 12 months. Every single one.
Dip the paddle, pull straight back, elbow close to the body, bend my knees. Repeat as quickly as possible before the wind knocked me off course.
At the buoy, I maneuver the board to the right and begin the 1km paddle, directly across into the wind and over the waves.
Dip the paddle, pull straight back, elbow close to the body, bend my knees. Repeat as quickly as possible to avoid being pushed back to where I have come from.
This is the hard work.
Every day I battled that wind. And every day, I won. After a couple of days of very hard work I learned to feel the wind, look for the wind, anticipate the wind. I learned that I could see the wind coming, by keeping my eyes on the water. Looking at the waves and watching for the small, jumpy ripples as they moved towards me. As the small ripples moved along the water, closer to me, so did the wind. I braced for it, I paddled harder and eventually moved through it. The wind and the ripples. Sometimes the wind was so strong that the effort of my paddling simply kept me in the same spot and did not allow me to drift backwards, but I did not make forward progress either.
I became so focused in my paddling that I was always surprised to see the rocks, my turn around point, so closely in front of me.
I am sure there is a name for the phenomenon I encountered every time I approached those rocks. A point in which the water was moving in waves towards me, and right in front of me, at the end of my board, waves running away from me towards the rocks. This was were I would turn around. Right before being battered into the rocks.
I would have thought the kilometre paddle back to the buoy would be easy with the wind at my back, but it never was. I still can’t quite figure out why. Maybe I was just so tired from the paddle to the rocks. As I approached the buoy, I would maneuver the board to the left and head back to the beach.
Today’s paddle was different.
Less wind. Wind still, but with less power, less strength.
I easily paddled out to the buoy and turned right. A balanced paddle, I was not fighting the wind. I was able to use each arm, each shoulder, each lat muscle.
I could feel the wind on my face, but it never gathered strength. I paddled, almost effortlessly. The waves today were bigger. Rolling. Gently flattening under my board. Soft knees, I glided over them. I paid attention. I watched for the ripples but they never came.
The time for easy had come. I had worked hard all week and this was my reward.
I paddled across to the rocks and turned around again, like I had the other 6 days this week. I gently paddled back to the buoy and then back to the beach.
I enjoyed each and every smooth paddle stroke. I relished in the harmony I created with the wind for today. The wind and I had become one. Equals. Neither one of us having won the battle. Each of us knowing that on any given day it might be a toss up, but the wind knowing that I was a worthy opponent.
As I approach the beach, my water sports guy meets me. I come down to my knees on the board and undo the ankle strap.