As humans, we are instinctively drawn toward other humans. We crave connection, interaction, and love. We naturally create local communities as we seek out those who fuel our passions, understand our desires, and help us pursue our goals. Over the years, I have been able to use paddle boarding as a tool to connect in new ways to my family, my friends, and my students. It doesn’t matter what age or skill level you are at, anyone can experience the benefits of being on the water and the community that comes with it. While I love jumping on my board by myself and hearing nothing but the water dripping off my paddle, I also love sharing that experience with others. Much in the same way that many prefer heading to a concert or riding up the ski lift with friends, some experiences are enriched simply by the company we keep.
The first time I ever stepped on a stand up paddleboard I was with my mother in Sebastian, Florida. Neither one of us had ever tried the sport, but being the adventurous and curious women we are, we immediately knew we had to give it a whirl when we found out that our hotel offered rentals. After a couple of tips and pointers from the rental shop guy, we hopped on our boards and never looked back. I’m pretty sure we both owned our own paddleboard within six months of that first experience!
Since then, my mom and I have shared many more memories on the water. We’ve paddled down the Yampa River with blue herons and bald eagles for company. We’ve floated on the Green River through the beautiful Lodore Canyon. I even managed to convince my mom to come to one of my paddleboard yoga classes! Where ever we are, we can usually find a way to spend time together on the water and it has become a staple for our family.
Paddleboarding has also opened the door to new friendships for me. Instead of a traditional after-work happy hour at a bar, some girlfriends and I would meet once a week over the summer at our local reservoirs to go paddle boarding. Granted we probably talked and drank beer more than we actually paddled, but the conversations and laughs I’ve had with friends old and new while on my board are some of the best I’ve ever had.
Teaching paddleboard yoga has brought a new sense of community into my life as well. I’ve met so many new and wonderful people by offering classes on the water. I’ve had professors,
doctors, geologists, new mothers, photographers, dancers, and bankers all join me for a class. I love meeting new people and introducing them to a sport that brings me so much joy. Watching students push their comfort zone as they try their first warrior pose or relax and let the waves beneath them rock them to sleep in savasana is a truly magical experience.
The older I get, the more I have come to realize that time is our most precious commodity. It is the one thing that we can give to others that we will never get back. For me, paddle boarding has carved out a place in my life for time with my loved ones. Time spent lying in the sun talking about our hopes and dreams. Time spent exploring new places and basking in the beauty of it all. Time spent splashing around and knocking each other into the water, giggling the whole way down. Time spent laughing and time spent crying. Time spent connecting. Time spent living. Any time on my paddleboard is time well spent, especially when that time is shared with others.
Heather Ireland is a Hala Ambassador.