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As an eighteen-year-old college student who just discovered the wonders of paddle boarding about six months ago, I’m still relatively new to the game. However, that does not mean I couldn’t rave about it for hours on end. My best coworker offered to take me paddle boarding to a nearby lake with her one day, and I was immediately in love. The first experience is truly life-changing, as it makes you feel as though you are one with the water, while being so relaxing and enjoyable. I truly believe I’ll remember this day forever, as we ended it with a stop at the best burger and milkshake place in town. It was a day packed with great company, great food, and the greatest experience of all. I would live that lifestyle every single day if I didn’t have other scholarly and work-related obligations. After this day which seemed like it was straight out of a fairytale, I ended up buying a paddleboard of my very own within the next week. It was my “big ticket” purchase that I allowed myself for the summer, perhaps as a way to treat myself before leaving for college. I bought a simple stand up paddleboard, but one with a softer mat so I could practice my yoga on days when the lake was calmer. I took it out as often as I could, and I tried to share this amazing experience with as many friends as I could. I invited my best friend to go with me on one of my first trips, and she was able to borrow another friend’s board to use. Her first experience paddle boarding seemed very similar to mine, and sure enough, she had purchased one of her own within the next week or so. I am still so proud to say I could share that passion with her, which also became one of her passions. This newly-discovered hobby was allowing me to spend more time outdoors being active, while also strengthening my friendships and sharing a common interest with people I care about.
You hear it a lot, but paddle boarding really is a great workout. But the best part about it is that it doesn’t feel like you’re working out at all. You’re enjoying yourself so much and focusing on the other, more relaxing aspects of it all that you don’t even get tired. I never realize what a workout it is until the next day, when I get out of bed and I feel like I can’t lift my arms, my hips are abnormally tight, and my core is so sore that it hurts to laugh. This always makes me love paddle boarding even more, knowing that I’m doing such great things for my body and leaving me with a feeling of accomplishment. For me, however, the workout is just an added bonus to the fun I’m having. It works nearly every muscle in your body, and puts your balance to the test. Your legs, hips and core are constantly engaged, as they act as a stabilizer for the rest of your body. Your arms, back, and shoulders get their workout by actually propelling the board, gliding swiftly through the water. It builds strength and can also be a cardio workout, so you truly get the best of both worlds. Including other positive effects like improved endurance and better cardiovascular health from long durations, the list of positive physical effects as a result of paddle boarding goes on and on. This is also a low-impact activity, so it is very gentle on joints and could even help during rehabilitation processes. It is a much better alternative to running or weight lifting, which can damage joints if done improperly, or excessively. Better yet, you don’t have to live with that feeling of being sticky, gross, and caked with sweat, since you can simply take a dip in the water when you start to feel hot. It’s a great workout without feeling like you’re actually working out, so what’s not to love?
When you’re out on the water, it feels like all of your stress and problems disappear. You feel so miniscule when surrounded by water from all sides, and not seeing much in the distance other than vast expanses of water, towering trees, and mountains. It’s such a humbling feeling. It also acts as a great stress reliever, and allows me to feel more connected to nature. This feeling of being so small, and my problems being so small in the grand scheme of things, helps me to relax and unwind. It is so easy to clear your mind when it’s nothing but you and your paddle board, in the midst of a body of water that is so much grander that yourself. Only concentrating on the rhythm of your strokes, nothing else matters. When the lake is calm, I also love to practice yoga. I’ve been doing yoga sporadically for years, and it creates an even more calming feeling. It proves to be more challenging and requires more balance than regular yoga, but it all adds to the effect. It makes me focus on my breathing and completely clear my mind, even more than usual while in the middle of a lake.
Not to mention, soaking up the sun and getting your daily intake of Vitamin D can immediately boost your mood. Vitamin D often helps lessen the effects of seasonal affective disorder, depression, and premenstrual syndrome. For me, it seems utterly impossible to not be in complete bliss while out on the water. The benefits can also be increased if you are with a beloved friend or family member, who can also have a positive impact on your mood and mental state. Endorphins are also released from the exercise aspect, which is also an immediate mood booster. These endorphins create a euphoric experience, so scientifically, it is actually extremely challenging to not be happy while paddle boarding.
All of these are amazing aspects of paddle boarding, but in my opinion the best part of all is that anyone can do it. Since it’s a low-impact activity, it is very welcoming for all ages and can be considered a lifetime activity. You don’t have to live near an ocean either, since it is just as enjoyable on lakes or slower moving rivers. Living in eastern Washington, I didn’t initially realize just how much use I could get out of a paddle board. I am not near the ocean so that has never been an option, but luckily, there are a few lakes within thirty minutes of my hometown. There is also a program at my college where you can rent boards and take them to a nearby river, so I’m elated that I won’t have to give up this hobby while being at school. With easy access nearly everywhere you go, there is a reason this sport has become so popular recently. It’s so common to see celebrities and other influential people paddle boarding nowadays, and it’s no wonder why they are so attracted to this activity. With a paddle in my hand, I will be able to enjoy the ride through the rest of my life, and you could too.