Happy Girl

Here’s a me I hardly recognize: bikini, rash guard, goggles around my neck in case we see something cool, water shoes on the feet that are walking straight into the ocean. I’m following the rugged and handsome sailboat captain, carrying the backside of an enormous stand up paddle board. I hop on into a kneel as if it’s nothing and he gives me a push into the crystal clear turquoise of the Pacific by Kahala.

The simple phrase he utters fills me with confidence and courage. “Don’t worry, I’ll be right there next to you.”

And just like that there he is, on his own board floating close to me as promised.

We have a plan; gosh I like plans. We’ll paddle around between the beach and the reef where the water is like glass and there are no waves. We’ll stay as long as it takes to get comfortable and only then will we consider anything more daring.

So we paddle in circles, practicing technique. He challenges me in a seemingly benign way. “Just for the heck of it try standing up and paddling into the wind.” And just like that there I am, going far past my comfort zone into the ocean.

A huge manta ray splashes nearby but he knows not to tell me what it is. “Just a little fish!” he shouts instead. Hours pass in the sun and the water. I’m actually getting better and even sort of having fun.

He wants to take the channel out past the first break before the second reef where it gets calm again but deeper. I follow him until the wind picks up and the sea gets choppy. That’s where the fear takes over and the separation begins. Waist deep water this far out yet those little waves get to me.

If I needed to I could jump off the board and stand up, but the psychology of the moment consumes that reality. All I can see is something I can’t control, something to get myself out of. With a shake of my head I’m turned around, paddling as fast as I can back to shore.

And just like that there he is, almost beating me back to the beach. He wants to play in the waves but he stays close to me instead.

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