New sneaker shopping day was the highlight of my autumn as a child. I enthusiastically picked out a fresh pair of white kicks every September and then spent the next two weeks doing everything within my power to keep them white. Repeated cleanings. White shoe polish. I fought the battle between wanting to show off my new sneakers and wanting to protect them from the dangerous, dirty world that existed solely to soil them. By week three, I yielded to fortune and just trashed them to hell. Now I buy colored sneakers, because with age comes wisdom.
Or so one would hope.
I recently grew instantly bored of that kayak I threw through my car windshield last spring while moving across the state. Last summer my friend Danielle introduced me to the seductive lure of stand up paddleboarding (SUP), and ever since I have thought of ditching the kayak. Who can argue with an active sport you can do while having a conversation with your friend, out on the water, with a beer balanced on the end of your board?
Some nice people at Slingshot Sports in Hood River, Oregon—among them, the amazing Debbie—helped me pick out a reasonable solution for my new addiction. Kayak sold, I awaited the arrival of my Slingshot Crossfire which was shipped to the school to save even more cash. Save money by spending…what?
Life lessons from last spring taught me that kayak racks are necesario, but they don’t fit SUPs, so I had to wait for some foam canoe blocks to arrive at my local outdoor shop. In the meantime, my coworkers increasingly teased and taunted me about the board. When Adam told me he was going to steal it if it was still in the hall the next day, I took drastic measures to get it home. Despite a late spring snow shower and unseasonably cold temperatures, I drove the board home 75 miles using a highly secure method of transit.
Wouldn’t you know, as soon as my SUP arrived, the weather remained cold and wet like a bad British vacation or the winter we never had for what felt like weeks. Finally, a break in the cold timed perfectly with a Sunday afternoon conspired to get my tail out on the water for the board’s maiden voyage up the Connecticut River.
Some friends gave me crap about wearing a PFD when they saw photos from the afternoon. Despite the fact that the air temperature hovered around 70 degrees, the water was barely 50, so I erred on the cautious side. Who, me? (Don’t worry, I would fall into the river sans life jacket a week later and would be instantly shocked by how cold 50 degree water really is when you’re submerged in it, and your t-shirt and sunglasses are sinking into the abyss.) But the more I anticipate initial disaster, the less predictable it becomes. I doubt the PFD would have been helpful had I actually been hit by this plane that veered heart-poundingly close to crashing into me while landing in the river.
Crisis averted for the meantime, I had a lovely first afternoon paddling around. I had to continuously remind myself that I was, in fact, not Huckleberry Finn. But Huck Finn probably would have done a better job pulling his rig out of the water at the end of the day. After almost two hours of paddling, I boarded the dock and reached down to pick up my SUP.
But where was my arm strength? I had left it all in the river. As I struggled to lift the 30lb. board up on the dock, I lost my grip and dropped it clumsily and heavily onto some protruding hardware. So much for my new white sneakers.
The dock screws left two precise punctures in the bottom of my board, crushing my spirits and defeating my efforts to keep my new toy in pristine condition. And this is why we can’t have nice things. While all hope for the rig was not lost and a return to sea-worthiness was a quick repair away, the cosmetic damage was, most unfortunately, permanent.
While filling the two punctures with epoxy, I reminded myself of my white sneaker efforts which were always abandoned within weeks. This process was expedited with my paddleboard. Because if you want to have experiences, you have to be willing to get dirty, cut, wet, and maybe even a little broken—yes—on the very first day. As I mentioned before, I don’t even buy white sneakers anymore, because I’ve clearly grown way too smart for that.