Look Like a Fool…Who Cares? (Well, I Do. But Just a Little.)

You know what it is about learning curves? They’re very long. And steep. And there’s a lot more to them than you might initially think. When you’re learning something new, you not only have to learn the new thing. You also have to learn the things surrounding the new thing as well as the things that come after the thing, and they’re usually things you wouldn’t think to think of. Make sense? No? I’ll give you an example.

This summer, I’ve been learning to paddleboard. (Now don’t groan. You may be sick of hearing about my boarding adventures, but stick with me if you can, because I do have a point.) When I started renting a paddleboard on the lake this summer, I had to learn how to get up onto my knees, how to stand, how to paddle, how to keep my balance, how to not panic when a boat went by and I saw the wake heading toward me. I had to learn how to climb back on the board after the wake waves knocked me off. I learned how to turn and control my speed and avoid obstacles and deal with wind. I did a little research online, talked to a bunch of people, and practiced a lot, and now I can do all those things, plus a bit of yoga. I came up with a fun workout routine, and I actually seek out the wakes from the biggest, fastest boats to play in the waves.

But there was a huge variety of other things I had to learn about paddleboarding, and these were the things nobody told me about. Nobody wrote about them online. Nobody advised me. If I had asked the right people the right questions, I probably would have gotten some good answers, but who knew to ask? So here are some of the things I learned that I didn’t know I needed to learn:

1. How to carry a paddleboard in the wind without making enemies: walking along a parking lot confidently with my board tucked under my arm is all nice and fine until a strong gust of wind arrives. It catches the board like a propeller and spins me in a circle. I hop around frantically as the board spins, trying to keep my balance and stop the board from hitting things like cars, boulders, dogs, and small children. Note to self: quickly put the board down until the gust dies away.

2. Where to put the paddleboard in the water (hint: not on rocks): As the reservoir recedes during the summer months, the shelf of rocks leading to the water becomes longer and more treacherous. I’m not sure why I decided it was a good idea to settle myself at a picnic table and then carry my board single-handedly down the rocks and try to climb aboard while avoiding significant underwater obstacles. The result of this folly was several dings in my beautiful new board, a lot of unbalanced teetering and out-loud prayers not to drop the board, and several comments by unhelpful bystanders who asked if I needed a hand but made no move to climb down the rocks after me. Mind you, there’s a boat ramp not 50 feet from where I descended the rocks, which I now use, to my board’s relief. (Side story: I was scrambling down those rocks without my board to go swimming recently, when I felt myself losing my balance and falling forward. I knew my face was going to break my fall unless I did something, so I ducked my shoulder and kind of rolled, landing neatly back on my feet again about four feet from where I started. Liz told me it was an awesome Ninja move. I somehow survived without a speck of blood or even a bruise.)

In the foreground are the rocks I Ninja-rolled down, and also the rocks down which I attempted to carry my board…

3. How to keep track of gear: I lost many things paddleboarding this summer: a paddle, two pairs of sunglasses, four small bungee cords, a foam roof rack thingy, an inner-tube floaty, and my dignity. Thus, I learned that I needed a sunglasses strap to hold my glasses on. I learned that I have to remember to actually put the strap on the sunglasses before leaving the dock. I learned to double check everything around me before I pull out of the parking lot so as not to leave my oar sitting sadly on the pavement as I drive away. And other random stuff: Where do I leave my flip-flops? I need to wear them to carry the board to the water but I don’t want them on the board with me. Answer: tuck them between two rocks so they don’t blow away. Should I wear my baseball hat (keep sun off face) or leave it (avoid chasing it down when the wind whirls it away)? And who would have thought of this: when you swing your board up to the top of your head to balance it there as you lift it onto the car, make sure you’re not wearing a baseball cap, because the little metal button thing at the top hurts like hell when it is crushed into your skull by a fiberglass behemoth. I forgot things here there and everywhere, and had to retrace my steps to find them. It’s like I was Gretel, but instead of leaving a trail of breadcrumbs, I was constantly leaving a trail of paraphernalia behind, then chasing after it while holding my hat onto my head and falling down rocks. I’ve gotten a bit better at this.

4. To watch my language: more than once this summer, I found myself cursing loudly and creatively in front of families with youngsters. If you don’t like to be scowled at, practice using less well-known versions of swear words (example: “Oh, shipoopi, I just dropped my board on my flip-flapping toe and it hurts like a melon fluffer!”)

5. Not to talk about all of these learnings too often in front of the family: If you tell stories about your mishaps to make your family laugh, and you laugh at yourself too many times, they may eventually think it’s okay to laugh at you, too. And it might make you start to feel like your whole personality is geared around dropping lots of things and losing lots of other things. (On the other hand, when you drive away with the foam roof-rack thingies still on top of the car, and they blow off, and you can only find one of them, and you’re so sick of losing things that you end up in tears, you may find that your husband is so sweet that he immediately takes your daughter and goes out to buy you another one just to make you smile again. It’s possible they laugh at you on the way to the store, but if you don’t ask, you’ll never have to know.)

It’s this last learning that led me to this post. I gave myself such shit this summer for being absent-minded and for making a fool of myself in front of other people (while wearing a bathing suit, which somehow makes it worse). But now that I’ve been doing it for a couple of months, I’m getting near the top of the learning curve (about some of these things, at least). I can get myself from the house to the lake and back again without much confusion, fuss or trauma. I feel like a real outdoor paddleboard-y kind of gal when I unload my board from the car without dinging it, carry it past a bunch of army training guys who are blowing up a giant raft, kick off my flip flops and tuck them under a rock using one foot while holding the board and balancing on my other foot, walk into the water to just the right depth (to avoid scraping the fin, which was another thing I had to learn) where I sort of toss the board out in front of me with a practiced gesture, and then hop on and rise smoothly to a standing position while the momentum of the board has me heading out into open water before I even take a single stroke.It’s almost as though I am one of those surfer gals in the red bathing suits from that show, what was it called? Something Bay? Bay Watch! I’m totally one of those hot chicks and am clearly the envy of every other woman on the water.

If I hadn’t risked trying paddleboarding, I’d never have found this idyllic hammock spot.

But do you see the crazy variety of things you have to learn when trying something new? It must be like that with everything. Like cooking: I bet no pastry chef has ever told you to make sure your measuring cups and spoons are clean before making cupcakes, but that shit is important to know.

To get to my point (I hear you sighing with relief): learning something is hard, and there is always more to it than you might expect. You might make mistakes and look like an idiot but as I’ve found with my paddleboard, it is definitely worth it. Give something new a whirl. You may find you’ve made the best cupcakes ever.

Have fun til next time,


PS: I learned something else. Sophie is not a board dog, and won’t ever be. It’s a sad but true fact. Sigh.

PPS: I think it really is time to change the name of the blog. Maybe to something like MAW Finding Fun. MAW Pursuing Passion. MAW Meets PAW. (No, wait, that would be a totally different blog.)

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