Freaky Flotilla

“I roll and roll ’till I’m out of luck.”

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Four years ago I started stand up paddleboarding. The featured (above) photo is from the Freaky Flotilla, my first paddle race. I dressed like a kelp forest. I even had inflatable floaty fish. It was boss.

After I stole borrowed a Starboard Whopper from John and listened to his admonishment to always ALWAYS check the tides and the weather before I paddled (Did he know that I would frequently almost off myself while supping? Is he psychic?), I set off to scoot myself around Harbor Island as often as possible.

Four years ago, SUP was still new. When I paddled from the Dockside at 7am the migratory boats were just pulling anchor and heading toward the Wrightsville Beach drawbridge. I would wave.

I’m a waver.

They would take pictures.

Make comments:

“That looks like a lot of work!”

“That looks like a lot of fun!”

“Wow, where did you get that?”

“You don’t look very good at that.”

Yeah, well, I was never very good at that, but I didn’t particularly care.

Eventually we went from a “What are you doing?” mentality to a “Get the HELL out of my way” mentality on the water.

We went from an occasional stand up paddleboard on the water to waterways sort of filled with them.

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At least on the coasts.

And paddling an SUP was like riding a bike. In my eyes and in the eyes of boat drivers. I did it regularly; it became a habit; they wouldn’t run over me as long as I stayed out of the way.

*****

I liked standing up. I liked being able to see.

And then “The Foot” happened.

And I had to lie down.

Well, I could have done nothing. But nothing is never an option with me.

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The view from two inches above the water is better than the view from the couch.

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A couple of weeks ago I realized that, in some ways, I was back in 2010.

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“HEY! YOU! YEAH YOU! ARE YOU HURT?”

“Why are you lying down?”

“Do you need me to call Sea tow?” << Actual question.

“What is that thing?”

“I thought you were a seagull.”

“You have a tiller on that thing?”

“I’ve seen you around.” <<<Um, creepy.

“I thought those things were a pair of binoculars.” (In relation to my water bottles.)

“Shouldn’t you be standing up?”

Whereas SUP paddlers have become as common as pelicans I am now on something that many people had never seen. Something that confuses the heck out of them.

It turns my otherwise relaxing paddles into somewhat of an adventure.

I am still not great with boat wakes, though I have a “bath kitty” (trademark The Mullet) mentality whereby I will do ANYTHING to stay on the board so I don’t have to claw and thrash and shimmy back onto it mid-paddle.

I try to make eye contact with someone on every boat so they won’t chop me in two. Had a near miss on Saturday.

I crane my neck a lot and explain what I’m doing to people while lying on the board, mound of ass in the air, because I’m not coordinated enough to sit up on my board without falling off it one out of every two times I sit up.

(If I look back, LITERALLY all I can see is my butt. I’m not speaking in hyperbole there.)

I can’t hear anything down there by the water and if I look over my shoulder–anything more than a glance–I’m quite likely to roll off.

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^^^^ Accurate.

In exchange I get to do something that few other people on the water get to do.

I get to *be* on the water, which is better than being on the couch.

I get to be on the steep uphill climb where improvement happens in leaps and bounds instead of small increments.

I can feel the water moving under my belly, with my arms, and in my core.

I’m back to where I was in 2010 only with the knowledge or hindsight afforded by experience in the channels around my home.

*****

“I like what you’ve done with this,” Kim said.

“Huh?”

“Most people would have just bitched and moaned until they could get back on their standup board.”

“I did bitch and moan.”

“Yeah, but you also did something.”

 “I roll and roll ’till I change my luck”

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