Adventure is Never-ending
Do you know what a stand up paddleboard (SUP) is? I thought I did. Then I decided to go on an SUP adventure along the Cornish coast and everything changed. Again.
Cornwall is home to part of my soul. Its serrated coastline full of smugglers caves and drama are perfectly balanced with serpentine country lanes and sweet treats. My childhood is intrinsically tied to its seaside towns filled with too-tight-turns whilst memories of my first love crest along its sandy beaches. Cornwall is a manifestation of nostalgia: if my past was a place it would be Cornwall but I’m keen to make it a prominent part of my future too. In fact I plan on retiring there with a cow called Mable and a pig called "The Artist Formely Known As", but that is a story for another blog post.
I recently headed back for a weekend of adventuring on paddleboards along the Cornish coast. I wanted this trip to be a homage to my past but the beginning of new adventures too. I wanted to discover a new part of myself and test how I would cope in situations which push my definition of comfortable. I headed back to Cornwall to sow the seeds of new skills and future friends on the fertile landscape of my past.
Seven hours, four counties and one coach journey paid for entirely by dark chocolate later, I began my next adventure.
The weekend was organised by two explorers: Dave and Ian, Vertical Blue Adventures and an independent SUP company called Origin. I knew very little about any of them except that Dave had once travelled the length of the Mississippi river via a yellow SUP called Artemis. I presumed he'd know what was going on at least.
The next morning the group assembled on St. Anthony and the paddleboards were rolled out. Literally.
I’d seen a SUP before. It was a deflated lilo lookalike crumpled up in my friend's car boot. Turns out most SUPs are inflatable, not that you can tell once they are inflated to their correct pressure. This makes them excellent choices for casual adventures, whilst getting them to the correct PSI makes for a wonderful pre-paddle pump warmup.
Once briefed and on the water the group were up and paddling in 10 minutes. There were a few "baptisms" in the water as we negotiated our new found buoyancy, ripples and each other. However it wasn't until I took on a small pier that I fell off. You win this one pier, but next time...
Paddleboarding is incredibly easy to pick up, but every now and again you get a little wobble or wave that reminds you to pay attention. It's graceful, peaceful and very therapeutic. The smell of riverbanks and saltwater, the sound of seagulls that are actually near the sea, the gentle pat on the back from the near noon sun... I simultaneously felt how small I was in the big wide world yet how much control I had over my own little one. I pulled the horizon line towards me with every push from my paddle. The feeling of looking across the sea and heading for it with nothing but my own body to get me there was both empowering and terrifying. I was going to have to trust in myself because it was just me and my paddleboard.
The first stretch along open water was possibly my favourite experience. Seeing the Cornish coast which was so familiar to me from a whole new angle was mesmerising. Nostalgia fluttered through me as I remembered acutely just how much I wanted to be a mermaid whenever I came to Cornwall as a child. Paddleboarding along the hidden coves and caves saw the yearning for fins return with a vengeance.
We stopped for lunch (Cornish pasty, obviously) on a secluded beach framed by the deepest green trees I have ever seen and began to forage for our supper. I learned how to sneak up on limpets with ninja stealth, pluck winkles from rocks with my bare hands and how to nibble seaweed, which I have now dubbed 'the kale of the sea'. The group dynamic was excellent and I found myself running to a fro showing others the spoils of my foraging attempts. My inner three year old was alive and well.
Toddle toddle toddle!
Highlights of the trip for me include sleeping in the sky with a stranger and chilling with curious cows who explored us as we explored them - all adventurers in a field together. Wiping sleep from my eyes in the middle of a river whilst an early morning thunderstorm rolled over us is also a memory I'll treasure, topped off by the campfire porridge and Pip & Nut almond butter which followed it.
Less-than-highlights were present too. I had serious debates with myself on my little board, my self doubt doing its best to sink the mission. I was challenged to believe in myself and trust in the strength of my body, something I still have seriously skewed perceptions about. An accidental riverside raucous had also seen me submerge Dave's infamous 2 bags in saltwater; a fine way to thank the speaker whose talk had help inspire the passion that had lead me here in the first place. Everything survived, except my ego and pride of course.
Something I’m learning very quickly about this new scene I’ve stumbled upon is that every one is very, very nice. I don’t mean nice as in tolerable. I don’t mean nice as in ok-ish. I mean nice in the er, nicest possible way. The people I’ve been introduced to in the past month have been generous, kind and tolerant of my city slicker ways. Even when I forgot the rain cover on the tent making for a very soggy night. Even when I paddled my heart out in the wrong direction, defiantly dismissing the rest of the groups' (unheard) calls to simply “paddle the other way!”. Even when I nearly ruined one team member’s livelihood by submerging all their belongings in the Helford estuary. The kindness kept coming and I found myself taking joy in the simplest things with people I barely knew. There is a lot to smile about in the world when you are surrounded by people who will stop to show it to you.
The act of exploring a familiar place by new means paralleled my reason for being in Cornwall that weekend. I feel I know myself but it is through exploring new opportunities and approaches that we really learn who we are and who we can be. I'm not just discovering myself, I'm making myself too.
As the train crossed the Royal Albert Bridge bound for London I realised that adventure should never stop. I will keep pulling that horizon line towards me because that is when I feel the most grateful, connected and energised. The adventure has only just begun.