Thursday, July 20, 2017

Paddle Boarding: A Controversial Topic

Gloria wanted to go paddle boarding in Saugatuck.

Eli 15.11 and I are doers more than sitters, so this seemed like a good idea.

I've never been paddle boarding before, but it seems popular up here, and it looked like a solid workout, so I was all in.

When we got out after forty-five minutes, Eli was laughing so hard that he could barely walk.

Read on.

Tip #1: the first time you go paddle boarding, don't go on a windy day.
Tip #2: don't paddle board in a narrow channel with constant boat traffic.

If you ignore Tips #1 and #2, you'll be in the paddle boarding version of "The Perfect Storm".

I'm solid on a unicycle--not great, but I can handle myself, and ride for half an hour or so with no problem. Paddle boarding in these conditions was like unicycling on water, except there was no balance point you could establish.

It was constant, never-ending balance correction.

Plus, trying to paddle into a pretty brisk wind was tough. Very tough. Eli and I both managed, and knew that as soon as we turned around, it would be easy, but it was hard work going into the wind.

Then there was the third member of the party.

"She's out of sight!" Eli said, looking backward. I was trying to make sure I didn't fall off, so I wasn't looking backwards.

Gloria had disappeared behind a line of docked boats. We had a clear view for at least fifty yards, so she was well back.

"Let's slow down and see if she shows up," I said. I started paddling in place, which is insanely difficult, because forward momentum helps you balance.

"Still don't see her!" he shouted over the wind. "I'm going back!"

"Be careful!" I said, as boats came by every minute, seemingly.

If it sounds like we were adrift in the ocean, we weren't. I don't think we were ever more than fifty feet or so away from "land", land in this case being a series of docks along the channel. And we all had life jackets on.

The effort, though, was middle of the ocean level.

It took a few minutes, but Gloria came paddling into view, with Eli at her side. Then he paddled up to join me. "Oh, she's struggling!" he said, laughing.

"I can't go this slow," I said. "I have to move forward. As long as we can see her, we're good."

We paddled another few hundred yards forward. "The guy said when we reached the bridge, the boat traffic would really drop off," Eli said.

"You believed that?" I said. "Right now he's saying 'Hey, I told another tourist there was a bridge!' " Eli burst out laughing, and we kept paddling.

We turned enough to follow the channel that I could see an ominous face well behind.

The angry face.

I don't have a word for this face, but it's The Face That Dare Not Speak Its Name.

"She's gone feral!" I yelled.

The bad thing about The Face That Dare Not Speak Its Name is that it cannot be controlled. It's more of a blast radius situation--the bomb cannot be disarmed, and the only question is whether you can get far enough away to avoid the shrapnel.

We kept paddling. Choppy water and heavy boat traffic in front of us. Certain death behind us.

We did eventually see the bridge. It was far, far away. We would not reach the bridge.

After about thirty minutes of very difficult paddling, it was time to turn around. I figured it would take half as long (or less) going back, and forty-five minutes seemed like enough.

I figured this was a positive. We'd reach Gloria in a few minutes, and she could turn around and go with us, given a significant assist by the wind this time.

She was tired, though, so tired that she couldn't get any real momentum going forward, even with the wind. "Do you just want to paddle over to the dock and get out?" I asked. "We can come back for the board."

The dock was only ten feet away, and it was essentially only ten feet away all the way back, but her look said it all. No one was getting out of the water early.

Someone, however, was getting in the water early.

I didn't quite see how it happened, but I turned just in time to see the money shot, and it was a solid fall--feet first, no save possible.

"Down goes Frazier!" I thought.

Even then, though, she wouldn't go to the dock. She somehow righted herself and got back up, and in an incredible display of perseverance combined with rage, she paddled back to the start.

"I'm glad you didn't take your phone, because I didn't want it to get wet," I said to Eli, "but if you had, you would have taken video. Five million hits, minimum."

Gloria made a sound. Not sure what it was.

"Oh, you weren't close enough to hear her," he said. "After she fell off, she dropped about twenty F-bombs."

Gloria smiled a bit. Busted.

"My doctor said that the tremors in my hands affect my balance," she said.

"Oh, no!" Eli said, laughing.

"Yeah, that's not how you play this," I said. "You can't go to the medical condition card. You just have to take the 'L' and move on."

"Humph," she said.

A good time was had by all.

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