Five Paddling Lessons for the New Year

The emergence of a New Year always happens more suddenly than I would like. Instead of being stocked up with energy and ready to ride into January with maximum velocity, I’m usually weary from the year prior. But the clock keeps tick-tocking, the magic markers keep marking and finally, the last page of the calendar flips and there is nothing more than a spot on your refrigerator that hasn’t seen the light of day since January 1, one year ago. So time flows on, not unlike a river or the comings and goings of the tide.

For some reason, although I am often ill prepared, I find comfort in time’s apathy to my human uneasiness. The world will march on without us, no matter how good or bad we feel, the only thing we can choose is how to meet that indifference and what we can learn from it.

So we must wake up each day and pick up our boards, grab our paddles and hit the water, both literally and metaphorically. Here are five lessons that I’ve learned from paddling that I’ll lean on in the New Year.

Enjoy the ride. Photo: Aaron Black-Schmidt Image via Johnnie Walker

Keep the Momentum

It feels better and is more efficient to keep moving than it does to stall out. While you can’t outrun big problems or hurdles, continually moving and working on them is often the best solution. Just keep on paddling, keep working and keep moving forward.

Ride the Waves

Sometimes you’re lucky enough to catch a wave—of inspiration, of luck, of happiness. Relish those moments and milk them for all the aforementioned momentum they’re worth. You never know when the next flat spell will be.

Savor Your Wipeouts

This is very easy to say but very hard to do. If I’m out paddle surfing and haven’t fallen in yet, I dread it but as soon as I do, I feel better, more relaxed and less tense. Failure often brings similar education: that stumbling is usually not deadly, that we can handle it and that there is something to be learned therein.

Keep it fun. Photo: Aaron Black-Schmidt

Appreciate the Process

I often want to skip ahead and just be good at whatever I’m trying to accomplish, whether I’m training for a race or trying to master a new skill. But I often learn the most during the acquisition of proficiency. Don’t wish yourself forward because the same feeling awaits you up there too. There is always something new to learn; you will always be in development. That’s a gift from something as complex and challenging as standup paddling.

Enjoy the Conditions

Circumstances are not always ideal for practicing our chosen discipline. As with wipeouts, though, we often learn the most when we’re startled by what we experience on the water. There is much to be learned from how capricious nature is. Paddle out when you normally wouldn’t and stay open to the lessons of the water.

As paddlers, we are so lucky to have the gift of a rigorous sport to practice in the wilds of nature. We hope your 2019 is filled with as much time as possible enjoying it. We’ll see you out there.


Paddle what you preach.

Your personal frontier.

The article was originally published on Standup Paddling

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