Monday, August 31, 2015

Outer Banks Vacation: A Life Lesson in Adventure

Have I ever told you I save five dollar bills?  Years ago, I read an article about a woman who really wanted a pair of running shoes but have the money and also had committed to not using credit cards. She came up with the idea of saving every five dollar bill she got until she had enough money to buy those shoes.  When I read it, I was in need of a new freezer, so I started saving and the next thing you know I was handing Mr. Helen $350 to get that freezer.  Five dollars seems to be just the right amount to build up without breaking you - dollars take forever and tens seem like too big of a chunk.
Anyway, I saved five dollar bills from the time we booked this vacation to have spending money. I throw that money in a box and don't count it until it's time.  Sure enough I'd saved several hundred dollars and as soon as I counted that, I knew I was going to pay for us to have an adventure doing something I've always wanted to try:  Stand Up Paddleboarding.

(Side note: I apologize in advance for no photos because we did not have a waterproof camera. The tour group should take some and sell them back - we'd have bought them!)

I booked our adventure through Kitty Hawk Kites and Thursday morning, our second to last full day of vacation, we took off for our adventure.  It so happened we were sent to the office in Manteo and we'd walked by it so we knew right where to go.

When we got there, we were greeted by Scott, a very cute 19 year old surfer looking college student who works every summer doing these tours to pay for his college education.  After signing our life away on waivers, he suited us up with life vests then took us to the dock to show us how to get on, stand up, and paddle.  Believe me when I say he made it look like a piece of cake.

You start off on your knees, then you get to your feet and push all your weight back to your heels to stand up.  My biggest fear was that I would fall in the water.  It wasn't a fear of the water but rather of embarrassing my chubby 55 year old self.  So, Scott puts Mr. Helen on his board, then comes back for me, then comes in himself.   Mr. Helen stood right up - I knew he would as he's quite athletic.  Scott of course stood up and then... they both stood there looking at me.  When I tell you my legs were shaking so hard I couldn't stand, that doesn't even describe what was going on.  I sincerely thought I was going to be sick - my stomach was revolting, my head was swimming and my legs were shaking.  It was awful!  Scott was coaching and Mr. Helen was encouraging but my ears were buzzing so much I could barely hear them.  Finally, I got the feel of putting my weight back into my heels and stood up - and promptly fell into the water!

Well, now my worst fear was out of the way.  Little did I know that fear was not the worst.  The worst was now I had to get back up on that board and I was in the middle of the water with no footing.  I am not sure I can properly describe my terror to you.  Every time I would grab the other side of the board and try to pull myself up enough to get one of my short legs onto the board, my lifejacket would catch on the grooves in the board that are there to help you with footing and I couldn't seem to drag myself up enough to get on.  (Mr. Helen said later he felt bad for me because the lifejacket kept crawling up me and covering my face all the way to my eyeballs.)  Don't even ask me how I did it but eventually I hoisted up.  I got to my knees and told them to start paddling... and the minute they weren't looking, I STOOD UP!!!

Now I have to paddle.  The idea is to control yourself enough to only have to paddle on one side but I had to do it like a canoe on both sides - too much going on what with trying to stand and not throw up and all. It didn't matter though because soon I got my "sea legs" (as Scott called them) and we were paddling out into the harbor.  Just to give you an idea, this is a aerial photo of the marina where we started.  We started from the dock all the way at the bottom of this photo and went out towards that open water (see the lighthouse sticking out at the top?)

Even though I was shaking and trying to breathe and not fall in, it was an adreneline rush and more! It was a beautiful, sunny day, and Scott was telling us some of the Roanoke Island history as we paddled and of course, social Mr. Helen was talking away and then HE FELL IN!!!  OMG, it took everything I had not to fall in from laughing just because the look on his face was so shocked.  He had an easier time getting back on than I did and we were off again.  We continued our paddle and Mr. Helen fell in again.  I was dying!  (Plus now I *might* have felt better that my super athletic husband was leading the fall in quota.)

As we went along suddenly the wind picked up and when I say picked up, I'm telling you we had waves in the harbor.  We'd had a few waves from jet skis and boats but Scott had told us how to turn our boards so that they weren't coming at us sideways.  This was different and nothing we could control.  Just as we got by the theater building on Roanake Island Festival Park,  the wind caught me and there was no stopping.  The problem is, there are very very large rocks that line the waterfront there and I could tell Scott was afraid I was going to fall in and hit my head on a rock. Sure enough, one big gust just knocked me off the board and boom I was in the rocks.  Fortunately, I didn't hit anything and the under water rock made it easy for me to get back up on the board.  This is a picture of the Festival area and you can see the rocks lining the shore and the marina in the background so you can see how far we paddled.

At that point I think Scott was so afraid I'd fall in again, he insisted on towing me away from the rocks.  I felt bad and kept apologizing but he said it wasn't my fault, it was the wind and that even an experienced paddleboarder couldn't have stopped that the way my board was positioned.  Scott attached his leash to me and Mr. Helen was saying encouraging things, and he fell in again!  As I was leisurely being towed it was finally my turn to say encouraging words to him.

Scott got me positioned to continue paddling and soon we were in a cove that led us back to the marina.  Paddleboarding in the cove was so cool!  Of course the water was a lot calmer but at this point I think every fear I had was vanquished so I really enjoyed it.

As I thanked Scott for his excellent instruction - and patience - he said it was his pleasure to do our tour. "I love people like you. You were not a cry baby, a whiner, a complainer, or a quitter, even when the wind picked up and it would have been hard for an experienced person. You were a warrior."  This was even sweeter because he had told us a story of a 27 year old "ripped abs" guy that couldn't paddleboard and he had towed him for nearly the whole tour while the guy literally broke down and cried. So yeah, go us!

We left Manteo and went back to Nags Head to beach it for the day.  The waves had calmed enough that the water was open for swimming and we were excited to get in the water.

Our rental had some beach toys available for use and I suppose that the elation of the paddleboarding made me brave as I asked Mr. Helen to get the boogie boards and bring them with us.  

Once we settled in, I grabbed the board and went straight for the water.  Yes, the boards help once you actually catch the wave, but getting there was a whole new lesson.  At one point, I thought to myself, "What on earth are you doing - you're 55 years old!"  But finally I caught that magic wave and rode in all the way to shore - woo hooooo!  It was exhilarating!

I'm the dot in the middle there.  Mr. Helen was so excited to see me doing this (not to mention the only other place he's ever seen me in the water is St. Martin) he grabbed his iPhone and took this photo. He didn't know how to zoom though lol.

As I came on shore to rest in the sun a while, I realized - once again, much like I did on our Grand Canyon trip - that you are never too old to face your fears and do the things you've dreamed of. Sometimes, you need to let yourself fly.


  1. OK, your saving five dollar bills makes my change bucket seem a little paltry, lol. Hey, I throw quarters in there! ;) It's a great idea for saving money - and how fun to spend it on an experience like SUP!

    So I was a windsurfer back in the day. Getting on the board, from the water? Not easy. Standing up while pulling the sail up? Not easy. Falling into the water? Too easy, LOLOLOL!!! I'm impressed that you were able to do the SUP. I know I'd have jelly legs if I tried it...balancing on water is tough! But what a fun thing for you and Mr. Helen to do, and I love that he had his share of falls!

    Have you never boogie boarded before this trip? With your love of beaches, I just figured that was a normal thing for you!

    1. Don't knock your change jar - we have one too and when it gets full Mr. Helen moves the change to a large coffee can. We turned that in before vacation and it had $350!! It paid for all our fuel, tolls, and our fancy dinner.

      Nope, never boogie boarded before, only body surfing. I think boogie boarding is harder but you go way farther when you actually catch the wave!

  2. I so enjoyed reading this! What a great adventure. I love how you faced your fears and I love that quote.The whole post brought a smile to my face.

  3. LOVE it! And your poster at the end? Its perfect.

  4. That's so funny Helen because I just read that article about the $5 and I thought it was genius! The woman wanted a KitchenAid mixer but her husband thought $300 was too much to shell out, so she saved it up $5 at a time until she had enough and paid cash for it - the look on her face was priceless!

    I loved this post from beginning to end. It's like I wrote in my blog post today - everyone has a birthday and a date of death. The dash between those two dates is life and it has to be lived abundantly - and you did just that on your vacation. Love.

  5. You are, quite simply, MAGNIFICENT! You most definitely flew! Wow. Just wow. I would never have tried it. Too scary for me. Be proud of yourself, you earned it.

  6. Bravo! That sounds like a blast! I tried wind surfing once and I had so much trouble staying upright LOL! That was enough for me.

    I like the idea of the $5 thing for saving. I have an automatic debit set up every 2 weeks to go into my Roth. It's only a small amount so I don't even notice it gone, but it adds up over time.

  7. Love reading about your adventure!!!!!! (and love the $5)

  8. Woohoo! So proud of you that you took this adventure, it was fun to read and I have to admit I giggled a little that Mr. Helen fell in so often.