I went stand-up paddle boarding and didn’t die

by smithstandard
two people on boards in water

I went stand-up paddle boarding for the first time today.

IKR. The activity that people have been doing since the 1940s; the one that people do with their dogs onboard; the one that apparently even the most balanced-challenged have been doing for years – I attempted for the first time in 2019.

Take a guess at how I felt about life leading up to this event …

Ha. You got it. I was so anxious about it. I felt uneasy and sick whenever it was mentioned; I couldn’t sleep properly last night and on the way there I just felt dread sitting in the car.

Why, you may ask?

Well, I have been asking myself that same question, and prior to the event, this is what I came up with:

  • I don’t want to make a giant dick of myself in front of friends and also strangers.
  • What if I can’t stay on the fucking board, and everyone is waiting around for me to sort my life out?
  • I’m still not ready to be in front of anyone in minimal clothing.

Whilst these points are somewhat valid, I can’t help but look at them now and think, so what?

Like seriously, so what if my strangers or friends saw me fall, or stumble? So what if I am a little curvier than usual? The whole experience got me thinking, once again, about my anxiety and the real reasons why I was so stressed.

I was with people who were non-judgemental, patient, understanding, helpful and who guided me through the whole process, giving me encouragement and tips on how to loosen up so I wasn’t so tense. And I knew they would be like that. They never looked at me and said “shit Han, you really did eat a lot over Christmas” or laugh at me because I was the one nearly always at the back of the pack.

group paddleboarding

Definitely can’t tell I’m the least relaxed person in this photo.

I didn’t once think about the countless strangers around us enjoying their day except to avoid fishing lines and comment on cute dogs, and whilst I definitely didn’t feel sexy, I didn’t really think about how my body looked either.

So why was I so anxious?

Well, despite the fact that I tend to be about bloody everything, I think it was also because of a fourth point I left off the list:

  • Anything outside of my comfort zone/routine makes me panicky.

That’s the kicker right there. I am a creature of habit and whilst I like to talk a big game sometimes and tell others to “get outside their comfort zone because that’s where the magic happens” the minute it occurs in my own life, I’m a fucking baby. I imagine all of the worst-case scenarios and tell myself I won’t be able to do something new, that I will be shit at it and I shouldn’t bother trying.

I have written about this before, quite recently actually, when I talked about how my anxiety had become my security blanket. I think that a part of me just falls back into the whole “well, I’ve got anxiety so, don’t even bother”. I’ve been noticing it more and more of late.

It’s an unhealthy cycle I need to break out of and I figure, the only ways to break that cycle is to a) talk to myself with a little more kindness and b) push myself to try things I think I’ll be no good at – no matter how much the knot in my stomach tells me not to. Easier said than done, but a good thing to attempt I’d say.

Because, it turns out, I can paddle board. Huzzah!

Not gracefully or with any sort of natural talent I might add, but I managed to last out on the water the whole time and only fell off my board once when a boat came past. Although credit to my mates, they were all leaving me out of the “let’s-try-and-push-each-other-off-our-boards” game, which I greatly appreciated.

I’m ending my weekend feeling somewhat accomplished.

Whilst many may read this and be puzzled by amazing ability to freak out over everything, I honestly feel like I overcame a mental hurdle. Thanks to my friends, a bit of inner strength and a lot of talking with myself, I managed to do something way outside of my safety zone and only had positive experiences come from it.

Fellow anxiety-sufferers, I encourage you to do the same. Start with a smaller, less-intense or scary activity, get your mates, or your partner, or your dog – and just give whatever it is a crack. If my experience is anything to go by, the anxiety you feel prior to the event will be nothing compared to the joy and pride you feel after.

Han x

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