Four years ago, I stepped out of my comfort zone and stood up on a paddleboard for the first time. It was a little nerve-wracking thinking that I was going to topple over, like all of the people in America’s Funniest Home Videos, but I took it slow, followed guidance from my friends, and it has become an annual girl’s day on the lake adventure that I love.
When I was first asked to attend, I barely even understood what paddleboarding was and thought there would be no way this would be something I could enjoy. Don’t get me wrong, I love the water, but I am not the strongest swimmer. The thought of standing on top of water on (what I thought would be) a wobbly board wasn’t very appealing. But my other friends were in for it, my FOMO kicked in, and I agreed.
We ventured to Panga Bar & Grill on Upper Nemahbin Nebabin Lake in Oconomowoc. We rented our boards from the rental company right next door, Nomad Boardsports, and there was no turning back. We started our day with a Bloody Mary, for that little “liquid courage” boost I needed, and then it was time to hit the water. I let two of the girls go first so I could understand how to get on the long board, and kept one friend behind. It was rather easy to sit on my knees on the board and paddle it like a kayak, and not as wobbly as I thought it would be. We were off–no turning back now!
We paddled for a bit to get ourselves away from the dock and comfortable with the boards. And then it was time to stand. Full body sweat ensued thinking of standing on water and the what-ifs flew through my mind. What if I can’t do it? What if I fall in? What if I can’t get back on? What if they all laugh at me? I took it slow, got to the center of the board, and committed. And I was up! Really, actually up and doing it!
We paddled for a while at a nice slow pace and made it to the far north part of the lake. The lake is extremely clear with nice, sandy shorelines. We hopped off our boards and waded in the waist-deep, nice warm water while enjoying a drink or two. And chatted and caught up on life for a while and then decided to head back in for lunch. I was up on the board and heading back. I was feeling great and proud of how I accomplished getting up and figuring out my balance.
But then the next thing I knew, I was off-balance, stepping backward, and then water was over my head. I had a quick freakout moment that I was in the water and “was I going to be ok?” I truly don’t know exactly what happened when I fell, but now I had the task of trying to collect myself and get back on. I grabbed the paddle, plopped it on the board, and tried to conjure up a plan to get back on.
Two of my friends had to go back to our sandy beach area as a waterproof bag had drifted off and needed to be retrieved—they didn’t see me fall! My other friend was making good time heading back, but when she heard the splash of my downward demise, she slowed up to check on me. I gave a thumbs up. I tried a few ways to get back on to no avail and started to get frustrated and ready to surrender that I was stuck in the water—it was going to be a long way back this way. My lifejacket was strapped to the front of the board and within reach, so I calmed myself knowing I could get that at any time. I began swimming to shore using the massive paddleboard like the floaty boogie-board they give you in swim lessons, but that was taking forever. When I was finally within earshot of my friend, I asked for advice and learned the side-straddle was going to be my best option, as I couldn’t get myself high enough out of the water to get across the middle. So I grabbed up high on the board with my left arm, kick my left leg on the back and try to lay flat on the board. It took me two or three tries as I was tipping the board too much, but I was finally back on. Whew!
Lunch was extra-delicious and very satisfying when we got back to the bar for a break. We took some time to relax before heading back out and checked out Lower Nebabin. I stuck to my knees for the remainder of this day, but felt very accomplished that I stepped outside that zone, caused a problem and figured out how to fix it, and didn’t let it ruin my day.
Now, I have gone out with the group three more times, and do a combination of sitting, kneeling, and standing. Knock on wood, I haven’t fallen off again, but I did somehow lose a rutter on year two which made returning to the dock very challenging. Nomad was apologetic and got me a new board for the rest of the day and say that is rare. Also, I highly recommend a waterproof case for your phone that floats. Waterproof is a great start, but if it doesn’t float, a dry phone on the bottom of the lake doesn’t do any good, as I learned this year!
Now I look forward to this day each year to catch up with friends, get out on the water, get in some exercise, but most of all have fun.
Hi! I’m Sarah, 38, and have lived in Waukesha for over 10 years. My husband has two tweenage daughters, Violet and Samantha, and they live with us half the time. We also have my son Cameron, just turned one, who is my whole world. We have a rescue pup, Letty, who is an Alabama Designer dog–an Australian Sheperd/Catahoula/who-knows-what-else mix. She keeps us on our toes, wanting food and attention all the time. Being a new mom to Cameron and an insta-mom to the girls brings joys and challenges, but I am soaking in every minute because kids are only kids for so long. I love Waukesha and have my own blog about my experiences in the area. When I’m not out and about in the city, I’m enjoying time with my friends grilling out, drinking wine, and playing games—Uno is one of our faves. Or I’m in my kitchen trying new recipes or recreating ones I have had at local restaurants to share on my Sundays with Sarah // FoodFunWaukesha Facebook // Instagram // Blog