A few weeks ago, I decided to tackle learning something new. My children are constantly learning new things, from how to walk on the balance beam at gymnastics to which hand is their left and they do most of it with grace. When they do tantrum about how hard it is to learn something new, I rarely have any sympathy for how hard it must really be. I neglect to notice that they are faced with an endless amount of new experiences every day that they are expected to master in moments without complaining. And yet, learning something new can be hard and exhausting. Physically, your body must figure out how to interact with new movements while your brain has to figure out which neurons to fire. There is a lot going on and it can be exhausting. I decided to walk a mile in their shoes, so to say.
My family went on our yearly vacation to the Oregon coast and while I was scrolling through Instagram, I saw that a friend had recently gone paddle boarding. I did a quick search for paddle boarding in Manzanita and found SUP Manzanita. Owner Janice Gaines was quick to discuss paddle boarding with me and we arranged a time for my lesson.
I arrived bright and early and met up with the other person taking a lesson with me. Ken had paddle boarded once before but decided that he needed some proper lessons. As for me, I had done little prep but was ready for an adventure.
Gaines started out our lesson by teaching us about paddle boarding and introducing us to our boards. Then we hopped on and started paddling away from the dock. Gaines took us out on the Nehalem River which was glassy smooth. I voiced my concerns about falling off my board and Gaines ensured me that I wouldn’t. Pushing off from the dock was unsteady and as I shakily drifted away from the shore, I may have reconsidered my decision to try something new. Instead I focused my energy on what I had already learned. I steadied my feet and placed my oar in the water and scooped the water away. My first few strokes were shallow, quick and ineffective but before I knew it, I was gliding through the water. I joked that I was a natural and Gaines let me in on a secret about paddle boarding. “SUP has a nearly vertical learning curve,” she shared.
When we talked later, I asked her again about the learning curve and paddle boarding. “SUP is very base,” said Gaines. “The movement is standing there and pressing down on the paddle. Balance is required and the boards I have are very stable. Given those two parameters, SUPing is as easy as going for a walk.”
We spent nearly 90 minutes out on the river, at first paddling upstream before turning around and flowing with the current around the inlet and back to the docks. My lesson partner was always miles ahead of me and so I kept him in sight. Gaines drifted back and forth between the two of us, giving us direction and encouragement.
(PHOTO: SUP MANZANITA/REBECCA MONGRAIN)
The entire time we were out on the boards, my kids were on the shore watching me until I paddled out of their sight. As I rounded the corner to return to the dock, I could see them jumping with excitement. I got off my board and my youngest ran up to me and said, “You were amazing!” which filled my heart with joy. It made me think though. What if every time they tried something new, I responded the same way? A lot of times, they gather their strength and emotional fortitude to learn a new skill and while I’m proud of them, I don’t always let them know just how proud I am.
I also learned that learning something new can be hard! SUP is an easier sport to learn than say, surfing but it was still hard. My feet were sore from the paddling and I had a tough time walking off the dock. I asked Gaines about this and she said the first time you learn to paddle board, all the small muscles in your feet tense up but that once you’ve gone a few times, your foot muscles learn to not work as hard.
I’ve taken away a few important tidbits from this experience. First, letting go of fear and trying something new is hard work and I definitely sympathize with my children on this. Secondly, having someone applaud you for trying your best means that next time you try something new, you’ll have the confidence to do it. Finally, good teachers make a world of difference. Gaines was an excellent SUP instructor and made my experience so memorable. As I work to be my children's everyday teacher, I try to remember that taking time to explain things and getting down to their level means that they will have an excellent experience.