In an ordinary summer I would have been to the beach dozens of times by mid-July. This has not been an ordinary summer and last weekend was the first time in 2020 for me to visit the Lake Michigan shoreline. After a battle with the white caps on my stand-up paddle board, there is nothing better than to collapse in my beach chair with a good book. All the worries of the world vanish, and I can escape a million miles away without leaving my zip code.
It takes several trips to schlep everything down; paddle boards, chairs, a cooler, the dog, paddles, leashes (both for Finley and the paddle boards), and towels. By the time we have carried everything down, a quick paddle is my reward. I glance over at Joan, as if I am a ten-year-old boy asking permission to go before we have everything settled. She nods in the affirmative and I am off like a rocket before anyone asks me to do anything. I grab my SUP and glide out on the refreshing waters of one of the greatest lakes in the world.
I have written about my love for the SUP life previously, so I will spare you the mechanics of it. Suffice it to say that it has become second nature to me and even the 4 to 6-foot rollers we had last weekend did not prevent me from enjoying the water. No, I did not fall in. I paddled like crazy straight into the wind to break out of the wave action. It is super important, when it is that wavy, to paddle directly into the waves if you are interested in staying dry and on top of the board. As soon as you turn sideways to the waves you get into trouble. The waves grab the fin at the back of the board and pull the board right out from under you. I learned this the hard way (not from a book).
As you can imagine, it can be grueling to paddle out through the waves. Nature, the wind, and the waves are fighting against you… you just have to fight harder. Once I paddled a sufficient amount and before I was overly fatigued, I looked for my break to turn around. I only need a slight break in the wave action in order to turn around and face the shore, but I know I must move quickly. Once I am cooperating with the waves and heading in the same direction they are, that’s when the fun begins.
If I want to catch a wave and “surf” it in I have to be patient, persistent and a little bit lucky. I can’t spend my time looking behind my back to spot the right wave, as I would likely lose my balance and fall. I have to recognize the patterns of the waves and sense the right one and paddle like crazy to stay on the crest. It is exhilarating to feel the wave propel you forward while you use the paddle to steer. It is also important to note that when riding a wave into shore, you should shift your weight and your body behind the center of the board towards the back. I learned this the hard way too. If your weight is too far forward, the nose of the board goes down and may possibly enter the wave in front of you. Once the nose goes under water (while you are moving) it keeps going under water until you are summarily removed from the board.
I managed to catch several waves on my way back in and in those moments, I can tell you nothing, but joy is on my mind. No politics, no lockdowns, no pandemic, no market volatility, no hatred, no nonsense. Without trying to sound weird, I was at one with the world and nature and everything was all right.
I make several of these trips out into the face of the waves only to return gently but forcefully with them. Once I have gotten that out of my system, I can go back to the beach and relax in my chair with my book. It is Joan’s turn and she loves it every bit as much as I do.
We are truly blessed to live in this part of the world. I never take it for granted and try to remind my children that what we have up here is special and we need to appreciate it. As they are slowly leaving the nest I am sure they appreciate where they grew up.
When I was their age, the idea of sitting in a chair at the beach sounded boring, now I cannot wait. I guess I am growing up.