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Beginner-ness II


Once we were out on the water with our boards and our paddles, I realized that the gentle breeze was actually more like a stiffening north wind. The kind that sometimes starts to blow down out of Canada toward Chicago at the end of summer. Like autumn going for a test drive. Dipping its toes in the lake. And though the water felt warm near the shore, where the sun reached all the way to the bottom of the shallows and glistened or whatever, as we paddled out on our bellies, the undulations of the deep blue water started bringing colder currents from out in the middle of the lake.

I'm losing the train of what I wanted to say about all of this though. It's important that the water was cold (especially for describing what it felt like to fall directly in for the first time off the board -- which, just wait a second). But really what I thought I was going to write was about being bad at something that you're trying for the first time. And what the experience of trying does to one's ability to feel confident.

Because getting up on that board, and feeling every muscle in both of my feet and ankles start to quiver -- to feel all of the proprioception engineering in my body start to shout "oh man what in God's name is this, is he really trying to stand on this thing?" -- defied every one of my natural landlubber instincts. I'm a weak swimmer. I think I actually sink when I hit the water. Dense bones. I hate the discomfort of water in my nose and esophagus. I'm not supposed to be out on open water on sunny summer days with my skin exposed.

I don't even really like seafood.

In general, I enjoy being near water, and maybe dunking a few times on the hottest days after a long bike ride. But voluntarily navigating over water? Not my thing. I would have been one of the Vikings who stuck around to till the fields or something. Cooked the food. Built the boats and then sent the warriors off to sack the villages. Then sit around the fire and listen to their stories of heavy seas, and would probably have gotten seasick just thinking about the swells.

So.

Being a beginner. I'll tell you what, it's no fun mostly. One can feel the synapses firing and not finding anyone home at the other end of the line. The body of a rookie on a stand up paddleboard standing in a 5 knot wind. There are so many muscles asking "what in the actual fuck is going on here?"

And then I was off. Paddle into the blue water. Leaning forward into the wind and rotating my arms around my body as the lithe Italian man-child showed me. Those his muscles glistened in the sun. My hairy pale back kind of instead just reflected the sun into outer space.