Wading out into the water, my feet sink into the wet sand beneath me and the water level creeps higher and higher up my torso. Were I closer to home, wading into the waters on Cape Cod, I would feel the familiar chill of ocean waters that never warm. But I am instead in the Gulf of Mexico, lucky to have escaped the cold of New England for a Christmas trip to Florida. The warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico ease me further and further from the beach on Anna Maria Island where my family lies basking in the sun.
My right arm is extended, holding close to me the weightless surf board turned SUP board that floats out from shore with me. I try to remember the instructions from the tanned, blonde SUP rental man, whose relaxed surfer vibes made me feel confident I could master this new sport. He said to get on the board lying down, then work my way to kneeling and then full standing. This is a balancing act. My muscles tense and shake ever so slightly as I pull my body up onto the board, working to stay centered and balanced.
And I’m up! A smile cracks across my face as I stand on top of the board, floating above the ocean. What a cool sensation! As I paddle around, slowly traversing the water, I think how this is a beautiful combination of exercise and relaxation. You aren’t meant to go fast, or towards anything in particular. I paddle laps between two buoys, allowing the rhythmic flow of the ocean to soothe me into a relaxed state where I sink deeply into my thoughts.
The sun beats down on me so I sit down on my board, letting my legs dangle in the water to cool off. I splash water on my neck and shoulders, then peer down into the crystal blue waters. I am in Manatee County after all, and I hope I will see one pass by beneath me. No luck. The manatees must prefer areas less crowded by people.
After awhile I begin to tire, feeling the muscles in my core ache like they do after a good workout. I hardly realize how long I have been out here paddling, but I decide to head back to shore. I jump into the water from my board. Plop. Splash! The water engulfs my body. It feels refreshing and invigorating. I swim leisurely back to shore, feeling the blissful lack of hurry that one seeks on vacation. As I walk back up the beach, the rough of sand and shells press against my feet. My family doesn’t even need to ask because the smile on my face and the two hours I’ve just spent on the board says it all, this has been a fun day. I settle back into my beach chair, letting the sun dry me off, and we wait with no sense of urgency for the sun to set and light up the sky.