The five of us walked into the beach bar after pulling our stand-up paddleboards (SUPs) above the waterline and digging face masks out of our dry bags.
“Wow, we watched you come in,” said a man at the waterside table. “We’ve mostly just seen people falling in all day. You are impressive!”
I was secretly pleased, because I’d been the last to take up SUPing. I’d enjoyed it on the calm waters of Carlisle Bay, but when I tried it once at Freight’s it was NOT fun! I’d stubbornly stuck to my surfboard even when the waves died as the summer started.
“Oh just wait until we’re heading back out!” Simone quipped, and we all laughed as we ordered our rum drinks.
I’d remember those words ruefully a few hours later.
We’d started gradually. First there was a sunset paddle around Freight’s Bay, just for exercise. Next Richard threw out the idea of paddling to Oistins for breakfast on a Sunday at our favourite Surfer’s Cafe. My first big SUP adventure!
Soon, the kilometer and a half to Oistins was just a normal paddle, and we started thinking about bigger trips. While Scott, Simone and I were all away in August, Richard came up with a new plan. We would go to Rockley Beach with our snorkel gear and paddle out to the second reef. Scott had bought an anchor and Simone found a way to attach her cooler to her board.
Simone and I looked dubiously at the water when we arrived at the beach. It looked rough, choppy and windy, not the flat calm that had been forecast.
“It’s not that bad!” Richard confidently declared, so we unloaded the car and set out.
It was that bad. I tried to stand and both times ended up in the water, so I paddled on my knees. Even Richard, the expert SUP surfer, ended up capsized a couple of times. I would have given up and returned to the beach, but I realized that as I’d only just returned from Canada, the emergency bills in my waterproof phone case were not Barbadian dollars. I’d be on the beach with no money and no car keys to access my towel or dry clothes. I gritted my teeth and kept going.
It was too rough at the outer reef, so we came back in to the inner one and used our leashes to tether the boards to a buoy. A couple of snorkelers dropped by and we shared the Mike’s Rum Punch in the cooler with them.
The next day my quads were so tight from the kneeling paddling that I could barely walk, but my pride over sticking it out eased the pain. I’d stopped being afraid of rough water. If I fall off, I can get back on. If I can’t stand, I can kneel. And if it gets too bad, I can belly ride into shore.
And— back to the beach bar! It was raining hard, so we stayed for another drink waiting for it to let up. Now it was late, and now we were wobbly. We set out on our return. We kept falling off our boards, because apparently balance is a delicate thing, and it was taking three times as long as on our way back. The sun set, and the shore looked different, and somehow I was separated from some and then all of the gang. I went into a beach where I saw some people to ask directions, and then Simone and Richard had to rescue the kayakers who thought they were coming out to rescue me. The kayak started sinking and one of them, like a surprising number of Bajans, didn’t know how to swim!
At the end, we all made it safely back home, and have learned to allow more time to get back before the sun is set, and to save that next rum drink for AFTER the paddle!
Despite, or perhaps because of, the challenges, I love our paddleboard adventures. They push my limits, and so the limits move farther out. Longer paddles, rougher water, smaller board. I love that I can be learning something new, developing new skills, staying fit.
Mostly I love that I have found friends who want to share my brave travels.