Paddle for whole body and mind health

7 months 3 weeks ago #32562 by de Florette
Over the last few months, I have been paddling less and less due to work pressure, this combined with winter blues turned me into an alien creature that I did not recognize anymore. My hips had become stiff, I loss muscle tone and my adoring wife kept reminding me to drink less and look after my bulging tummy. She encouraged me to go on the water for she knows all too well the calming effect that it has on me.

It's funny to say this, but paddling in open ocean seems to ground me, make me a better person, clears my head of those voices that I sometimes hear but am not able to keep quiet... So, here I am at 5am sipping on a strong short black, trying to motivate myself that I should go paddling today, the ocean is calling, in fact, in big surf, I can hear and smell the ocean from my backyard. That morning, I could smell it! And it was this salty fragrance that makes you yearn for more. I tried not to rush my coffee as it gives me the jolt that I need to keep me going. I then consult my 2 favourite web sites 'seabreeze.com.au' and 'windguru.cz' and between the two, I have a pretty good idea of what to expect on the open ocean. It felt cold outside, in fact it was precisely 6 degrees centigrade, so I piled on a few layers of clothing, including a singlet that I wore during the Ocean Series a few years ago (when I was a lot fitter and stronger), my Bridge-to-Beach cap, tights, life jacket and paddling boots and off I went to seek solace where I belong. The predicted swell was 1m75 from the SE and 12-15 knots SE winds. I loved those conditions as I affectionately call it the La Perouse Express.

As I start to paddle into the swell and oncoming wind, I got reminded on the right course by a school of garfish gliding past. Soon the swell and backwash from the Malabar headland make a mess of the gentle conditions so far. The trick here is to relax and not tense up, trusting your craft and letting your hips loose is the way to go, along with the occasional brace. Soon enough I manage to navigate past this challenging section, only to be rewarded by huge, powerful ground swell about 10 seconds apart. The beauty of SE swell is that you can ride the back of the swell and you can accelerate into the next wave. I was starting to feel the sensation of being in a very fast lift as I was setting into a nice cadence which would intensify as I was surfing more and more, gliding past each wave towards the entrance of Botany Bay. As you go further and further away from the coast, various thoughts come and go, I tend not to resist them, I acknowledge them and focus on my paddling, and before you know it, they become insignificantly insconspicuous and you fully connect with the elements. I am also conscious that I am very lucky to have a stable craft that I trust in big conditions and I have the skills to stay upright and move the craft at a decent speed. The swell digs deeper and the crest rise higher. And as I reach the section about half a kilometer off the cliffs at the entrance of Botany Bay, the cliffs turn to gold in the rising sun. I then decide to turn around and I want to get back home at a decent time to get ready for work.

The paddle back is a story in itself... the swell is a touch too fast for me to catch but when I do catch it, I realise that my cadence needs to change if I am to make the most of the power of the ocean. I drop the paddle a little and I give it a good kick with the hips as soon as I feel the back if the ski lift. Boy oh boy, here we go now... the craft becomes alive, my breathing is slow but deeper, I am now an ocean warrior heading towards the cliffs at crazy speeds, the spray blowing at the top of the breaking waves remind me that I need to correct my course of I do not want to become a diving wreck! I wish at this point that I had a camera to record nature at its utmost beauty, when all of a sudden, out of a wave comes a swooping albatross coming to check me out, I could see its underbody glowing orange with the rising sun. I swear and praise the Lord at the same time, and before I can call upon the Saints, another 4 fly overhead in a formation. The paddling becomes secondary for a brief moment as I try to appreciate this very privileged moment. As I am the only floating object on the water 2 kms from the beach at Little Bay, they are attracted and the swoop around and decide that they would rather eat something else. I have seen them before but never in such a large group.

Negotiating the bombie at the southern headland of Long Bay, makes you want to wee in your pants but your survival instinct takes over, my eyes scanning the surface of the water for holes and backwash direction. I change direction quite often and pick up some pace. By now, my craft has become an extension of my body, my paddles an extension of my arms and my legs are like anchors glued to the foot plate, whilst my hips are like the a well oiled CV joint in a 4WD!

As I get into calmer waters in the safety of Long Bay (not the jail), I start to ponder on the wonderful voyage that I had just experience. At this point in time, I minds starts to drift again, as I think about work and in particular this colleague that has been stressing me out,,, and you may have guessed what happens next! Yes, I fall off and I momentarily lost focus and more likely had a mini panic attack myself. Thank goodness, the water is at around 15 C and I have my remounting technique well rehearsed. As I stabilised the craft and start paddling, I keep reminding myself that this bloke cannot hurt me... I have just survived waves which make land disappear for 2-4 seconds at a time in front of my eyes, being eaten by 5 albatrosses and had paddled beside a school of happy garfish!

I had a great day on that day. I was still cold until about 10am but I was noticeably calmer than usual. I greeted this bloke with a smile and whatever he said or did, made no difference to the serenity inside of me. I thanked my wife that evening for encouraging me to go for a paddle. In fact, one of my colleagues made a comment like 'you look like in a different zpace'. I probably was,and I had the feeling of having spent the whole day sailing big ocean swell all day, and that feeling lasted for most of the day...

Jean
The following user(s) said Thank You: Hiro, GlenRusky

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7 months 2 weeks ago #32564 by GlenRusky
Well written Jean. As an expat Aussie living in Europe now, I know the area you are describing very well having undertaken that paddle you described many times. The Sou'Easter is the best for Long Bay always making it thrilling and I can attest to experiencing the same exuberance when hitting the quieter waters of the bay. As for the calming effect of paddling offshore, I miss that immensely.
Thanks for sending me back there!
Glen

Current Ski: Fenn Spark - carbon
Previous Skis: Vajda Hawx elite, Fenn Swordfish - carbon, Fenn Elite - carbon

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