By Leslie Merchant
Got an hour in the middle of the day? Need a little friend therapy? Instead of making plans to meet for lunch or at the coffee shop, why not get out and meet on Puget Sound? Five Steamboat Island moms (and one Steamboat Island pup) recently decided to shake things up a bit and test the waters despite the fact that the water temperatures are brisk in the Pacific Northwest.
Taking time to stop and smell the roses, or in our case, the salty air is easier than you think. All you need is a paddleboard (borrowed is just fine), a friend (four legged varieties included) and a bit of time of personal freedom. You might want to pack a sense of humor in case you get wet, but it’s not necessary.
Five of us crazy busy ladies decided to carve out an hour and a half of our week to reset our clocks in a healthy and relaxing way. We are all amateur water enthusiasts and professional good-time seekers, and we were determined not to let the weather dictate our experience. Mother Nature obliged by giving us one of those spectacular (albeit rare) sunny and breezy days to venture out of our usual comfort zone. Our shouts of delight when we all arrived at our prearranged meeting spot (one of Eld Inlet’s many coves) could probably be heard up and down the Sound.
Kelly O’Sullivan, a recently back-to-work mom of two, says that paddle boarding has transformed her perception of Puget Sound. She only just took up the sport last summer and muses, “I feel like I am on vacation every time I go paddle boarding. It is so relaxing and such an escape from everything. It is something the whole family can do together and each time we see something different to wonder about.”
Erica Smith, another busy mother of two, has a slightly different attitude towards paddle boarding in Puget Sound. “I am scared to death every time I get on one (that I am going to fall in) but then it’s so peaceful and I forget to be nervous.”
“It’s a way better perspective to see the water from a board,” adds Erica. “I love to look for starfish and seals. You just forget that you are balancing on basically a surfboard and all of the sudden you are having a great time.” Erica is undeniably a bit fearful of falling in the chilly water, but admits that once you find your balance, paddle boarding is very easy to master. Going out with a group of friends makes the sport that much more enticing for her, and she was delighted that the only thing that got wet on our recent excursion were her feet.
Besides looking for creatures in the water, paddle boarding offers a unique angle from which to do some land-looking. By that I mean it’s amazing how many incredible homes, beaches and coves dot Puget Sound that are completely hidden from the roads. Part of the wonder of being on the water is dreaming about what it would be like to live in a certain home or discovering the treasures of a particular cove. The relaxed pace of paddling is perfect for conversation and exploration. Throw in a couple of good friends and what would have been a routine coffee date turns into a much cherished experience. And just think of the story you will be able to tell if someone actually does fall in the water.
Bree Warjone, another of our party of five, joined us in her daughter’s kayak. She has always been a passenger in a motor boat rather than being directly on the water in a personal craft, and this was her first time fending for herself. She says she was surprised how easy it was to take up and how much she is looking forward to this summer on the water.
Many people let the weather decide their agendas. The beauty of the board is that rain or shine, there is always an opportunity to get out and paddle. As long as the wind is minimal, it is a sport that can be enjoyed year-round by people of every athletic ability.
It is relatively easy and inexpensive for even the most novice to find a board and a friend and learn Paddle Boarding 101. It seems almost scandalous to live in the Puget Sound area and not at least make an effort to appreciate our enviable surroundings. The next time you look around and think, “I live in one of the most beautiful places in the entire country! Why don’t I ever seem to get out and enjoy it?” consider paddle boarding on Puget Sound. With a friend or two and a couple of hours, it might be the best mini-vacation you have ever taken.