how stand-up paddleboarding has reset the way that i connect to nature
In August of last year I suffered an injury to my ankle whilst running in the mountains near my home town of Whistler, British Columbia. That injury, which involved ligament damage marked the second consecutive summer that ended with a disappointing outcome.
I felt frustrated, not only because of the injury but also because my freedom to get out and explore nature was taken away from me.
That need for exploring nature with an active approach is a way of life for me and I had to get back to it.
Several weeks after the injury, a friend suggested that I join for a paddle board session on the lake. I spent the afternoon sat down on the board and paddled around, happy to get out and experience something new. Later that day I purchased my own stand-up paddle board.
At first, the paddle board was simply a fun way for me to get back out into nature while I was limited due to the injury. Once I was able to put some more weight on my ankle I quickly realized that paddle boarding is a great form of physiotherapy.
The soft, uneven surface of the board provided me with a powerful tool to work on my balance and build up the strength in my ankle. I found myself paddling nearly every morning over the next couple of months and by the end I was even working on single legged squats.
Up until now I have only known one pace when it comes to being active in nature. My summers would involve a strict training plan with the goal often being ultra marathon trail runs and epic mountain missions. My winters don’t fall short of that as I spend time skiing around the world in consequential backcountry terrain. For a long time I believed that the only way for me to connect to nature is by pushing myself and testing my physical and mental limits.
Standup paddle boarding has now changed the way that I look at things.
The simple act of getting out into nature on the paddle board allows me to slow down the high pace and silence all of the outside noise.
I have discovered that by slowing down the pace I am able to connect to nature at a deeper level and become aware of how my body is feeling. Taking in the sounds, the wind and the splashing water provides me with a beautiful tool to concentrate on bettering my mental health and take a break from the fast paced world that we live in.
In addition I have recently been using my standup paddle board to travel a bit deeper into the backcountry and explore some remote lakes along with getting out on the sea.
The healthy outlook to spending time outdoors that paddle boarding has given me this summer has also allowed me to enjoy the days when I am running, working out or even rock climbing with a whole new positive energy.
Here are my 5 favourite ways to reset and use the paddle board:
Get out extra early in the morning. Nothing beats the feeling of starting off the day with a sunrise paddle board session. I have found that the energy I create by waking up early and being the first person on the lake is tough to beat and helps me set the tone for a successful and productive day. Another bonus to waking up extra early is that conditions tend to be the calmest which often result in beautiful glass-like water.
Try meditating. If conditions are calm and you are in a peaceful environment or even just need a moment to silence the noise I would highly recommend a sup-meditation. I like to find a calm spot on the lake so that I don’t drift too far off, sit with my legs crossed and eyes shut and work on slowing down my breath for 10-15 minutes. If you have a go-to meditation routine then try it out next time on the paddle board.
Do a paddle board work out. Yes! The paddle board can also be used as a really great work out tool, especially for the upper body and core along with balance work for the legs. Often times I like to kick it into a higher gear and really go for a good paddling session. My go to workout is one hour of strong paddling in a safe environment that I am familiar with. Make sure to maintain good technique and a straight back to avoid any injuries.
Take a cold plunge. Have you got a cold body of water nearby? If so, why not get off your paddle board and jump right in. Thankfully, I have a glacier fed lake right by my house. When the weather is warm enough I like to get into the water and really concentrate on calming down my breath cycle. I find that doing this right after a meditation gives me an instant energy boost! Keep in mind that you want to make sure that you can grab onto your board or attach to a leash so that it doesn’t drift off.
Paddle together with people. Share this beautiful activity with friends, family and partners! A lot of times I do go out solo on my paddle board but I also really like to get out on the water with my partner and friends that are into paddling along with introducing new people to the sport. Having a fun conversation and exercising outdoors with like minded people has been a true gift and given the reality that we have been living in over the past year or so this is a great tool to socialize.
Looking forward to seeing you on the water!