Sometimes island life makes you yearn for strange things. It’s often those little normal life things whose value never dawned on you until they were no longer available. For me, it’s walks. Much like a dog whose owner is away at work for hours at a time, I often crave the freedom to go on a walk. Nothing fancy, really. It wouldn’t even have to be the fitness kind that requires sporty footwear. Just a stroll in a park or even down a pretty street would get my tail wagging. Something where I could get a bit of distance in and find a rhythm to my step would be superb.
My rock of residence is tiny – roughly one acre at low tide and most of that acre is taken up by hotel rooms and a bar/restaurant, so there really isn’t much space left to walk on. There are times throughout the day that I just want to take a break from the computer and go for a stroll outside. But when I do, I can generally walk in a circle around my entire island in upwards of 3 minutes, probably less if I didn’t stop to chat with the toucans and I actually timed myself. If I really wanted to go longer, I suppose I could walk laps but when your laps are hundreds of meters shy of your standard issue running track and you’re walking through the same bar repeatedly only minutes since your last drive-by, you tend to look like a nutcase. Not that I’m all that concerned with what the drunk people think about me, but really, repetitive walking in the same circle doesn’t just make me look like a nutcase, it also makes me feel like one.
But while I may suffer from a shortage of land, I am fortunate to be surrounded by the great wide ocean. I love to swim in it and boat through it and have frequently pondered just how amazing it would be to actually walk on top of it, preferably in a wild, dance-y way akin to one of those Jesus lizards. However, after several hopeful, fingers-crossed Google searches of “how to walk on water” returned disappointing results, I was forced to move on to the next best option.
Stand-up paddleboarding, or SUP for all you acronym enthusiasts, has been gaining popularity in recent years. Lucky for me, our island’s owner is always on top of the trends and shipped us down some spiffy boards and in turn, gave me my current hobby. I have come to really love paddleboarding, however, my only wish is that there was more leg motion involved – you literally just stand there. Perhaps one day someone will invent some sort of an elliptical-esque, walking on water board/device (seriously – someone invent that shit) but until then, the paddleboard is doing a fine job at filling my walking void. It’s not particularly strenuous exercise (again, you just stand there), but I find it quite tranquil and rejuvenating to paddle around in the fresh air, afloat above the busy reef below. That is, at least during the times people aren’t trying to sink me.
Paddleboarding has since evolved into my own rudimentary study of human nature, in which I have drawn some startling conclusions. According to my in situ research, when people in boats come across a person on a paddleboard, they find it irresistible to not speed up, create an enormous wake, then stop to watch, rapt, in hopes that said paddleboarder will fall off their board and into the ocean.
The first time it happened to me, I was paddling along, minding my own business, when a foursome in an approaching dinghy suddenly sped up and swerved in front of me, then shifted into neutral once they were a couple of yards away. My first thought was that they were going to apologize profusely for their blatant disregard of boating etiquette, but as they anxiously smiled amongst themselves, their motivations were revealed to be much more nefarious. It became clear that this was no accident; they had intentionally sent a wave of boat wake in my direction and were waiting in anticipation of a dramatic, hands flailing, “whoa-whoa-whoa” splash.
I was aghast that a) complete strangers were unabashedly trying to punk me and b) that they thought the small little wake from their ridiculous dinghy would actually be enough to make me fall. As I stood there on my board returning their collective stare, I shifted my weight slightly from foot to foot to balance myself while the roll of the wake passed. They drove away visibly disappointed while I paddled on, mulling over this perplexing encounter. At the time, I attributed this to a run-in with a solitary bunch of jackasses. Little did I know that this would not be an isolated incident, but rather an introduction to my future of defensive paddleboarding.
As it turns out, there is no demographic that does not wish to see me plummet off my board and into the sea. Men and women, young and old, French, German, American, you name it – all seem to possess an inherent desire to turn what appears to be a leisurely paddle into an America’s Funniest Home Videos moment. I distinctly remember the time a 70-ish jolly-looking grandparent-type couple surged me as it was the exact moment I lost all faith in the human race.
Just last week, I was blasted by an 80 ft motor yacht. Granted, I was only a few feet outside of a marked channel and I don’t believe they were going after me directly as the others do, but even so, I did spot a man on the lido deck with a pair of binoculars, leaning over the rail all too eagerly in what I can only assume to be a genuine wish to watch me fall.
So far, I am proud to announce that I am winning this war. Not one of these sadistic pranksters has succeeded in de-boarding me. I have even gotten so bold as to openly celebrate my victory / shove their failure in their faces. With each wake that is thrown my way, I stand steady, lock eyes on my opponent, and hold my paddle high as their wake passes me by, unsuccessful in its malevolent mission. It’s hard to not get too cocky when someone is openly trying to screw you for no apparent reason, however, I do refrain from screaming (out loud, at least) my battle cry – Suck it, losers!
Don’t get me wrong, I get it. It probably would be uproariously hilarious to watch me dramatically fall off of my board. But the fact of the matter is, they picked the wrong girl. I do yoga on this board. I may not be able to coordinate walking up stairs and chewing gum at the same time, but don’t mess with me on the water. Go take your wake someplace else, I will be returning home dry. Make no mistake about that.