#7 Whatever you do, don’t fall in!

Written by Shelle

September 16, 2021

Paddleboarders always look so serene, don’t they.

As a self-confessed water junkie, I just love to be on or near the water, but I’m not so great at being in it as I’m really not a strong swimmer. So, I’ve always admired paddleboarders for their apparent fearlessness. It appears to defy gravity that they can stand so upright and balanced on a bit of plastic as they paddle up and down stream.

I remember when paddleboarding became a thing, about five or six years ago – I’d just dislocated my elbow rather spectacularly, and knew it would be a while before I’d be able to give it a go because my elbow wouldn’t be strong enough.

Then I kind of got bogged down with life stuff and forgot all about it. I’d see paddleboarders and think, ‘Ah I’ll give that a go one day!’

Well, thanks to a wonderful donation to my Alzheimer’s Research UK JustGiving page from Don Lynch, and by the power of friendships and generosity, I finally got to try it as one of my challenges. It didn’t disappoint.

I’ll admit to being really nervous as I waited for Carlos from RiverJoy Paddle to arrive. We were due to be paddling from Richmond riverside to Twickenham and back again, and that seemed like a mighty long way for a newbie! And what about the tides? Wouldn’t we be paddling upstream against the current on the way back? How was I going to cope with that?

After a 15 minute safety briefing to cover a few practicalities, we were off. I started on my knees, of course! We reached a quieter stretch of the river and this was my cue to try standing up on the board…

A wobbly disaster

My first attempt was a wobbly disaster so I sat back down again, but I’m not one to be defeated, so I was determined to try again. This time I had more success, and made it rather rigidly to my feet. I then spent the next half hour flatly refusing to look anywhere but dead straight ahead for fear that if I moved even my eyes to look right or left, I’d lose my balance and fall in hahahaha!

As with all these things, I knew that if I could relax my body, I’d actually fair better, but my legs were rock solid! Anyway, we paddled for an hour and made it to the White Swan in Twickenham for a much needed drink. The tide was really high there, so the road was completely flooded and we pretty much paddled right up to the front door of the pub, which was something of a novelty!

The return to Richmond was much less stressful; I’d got the hang of it by then, and managed to relax my body enough to at least give the outward impression of calm – like I’d been doing it for years! Thanks to Carlos’ pre-planned timings, and the work of Richmond lock, we were paddling with the current both ways. This was a huge relief!!

I had a couple of near misses on the return, including a little rendezvous with the side of a rowing boat as we arrived back at Richmond riverside, but I manage to steady myself just in time and didn’t fall in. Hoorah!

All in all, it was a wonderful experience and provided a delightful vantage point from which to enjoy the beauty of the river in the late afternoon sunshine. Just perfect. More water-based challenges, please 😊

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