Michael, my stand-up paddle board instructor from Lomma Beach House, grips the front of my board, chest-deep in water.
“You’re going to stand again,” he promises. “Come on.”
I don’t want to do this.
“Really? I’m fine not …” I assure him.
“No. Stand up,” he suggests. “Put one leg underneath your body.”
I do so.
“Now, the other.”
Crouching on the board, I can already feel my thighs shiver.
“OK, good,” he says, squinting into the sun because I’ve taken his sunglasses. “Slowly, stand.”
I’ve already tried this. Twenty minutes earlier. I was successful. For about 30 seconds. As soon as I gripped the paddle and attempted to actually do the task at hand — stand-up paddle boarding — I fell, face first into the oh-so fresh Baltic Sea.
I slowly rise, taking every ounce of strength in my legs to propel me up.
I’m doing it.
“OK, now, stay there, I have to go get my board,” he says, swishing through the sea behind me after his board, which has floated some distance away.
I’m doing it.
Then, my legs quiver more. The board dips to the left. Dips to the right. And, I plunge back into the water.
I brush off the water from my eyes and stand in the soft sand, water at my waist, smiling.
A far cry from the attitude I had earlier in the morning.
“I really, really don’t want to go paddle boarding,” I had confided in Anna, my guide for the last portion of my Sweden trip (through the Malmo region), when she picked me up from the train station.
In fact, when I had looked at the weather the other week from the safe confines of Las Vegas, I was delighted to see cool temperatures, rain and general gloom. Forgetting about the fact wet suits exist, I figured I wouldn’t even have to argue about the activity. It just wasn’t going to happen.
“It’s OK, you will like it,” she assured me as we drove past blooming fields of canola, glowing bright yellow on jade green stems.
I looked out the window, heart racing about the “light adventure” I was about to embark on.
I don’t do adventures. At all. I try. But every time I try to do something adventurous that involves my feet not being firmly planted on the ground, I end up in precarious situations (see Parafalling in Turkey for a prime example of what not to do when going paragliding).
When we parked at Lomma Beach House and walked up the sand to the wooden beach house, I saw two large paddle boards propped against the deck. My first instinct was to run back to the car and skip straight to our organic lunch. Immediately.
I have no desire in the world to do this. None at all. Nada.
“Come on,” she urged me.
Erik Bilder, the owner, and Michael, my instructor for the day, stood outside, waiting for us.
“I figured we would go out there and learn, then we will paddle board through the Lomma harbor, through what I like to call the bayou, and then over to the church,” Michael explained.
Ha. I can’t even imagine myself making it to an upright position on the board, let alone paddling around town.
Somehow, I managed to convince Anna and her friend to take the lesson with me (strength in numbers, right?), and the three of us headed into the changing room to put on wet suits.
“Is this like Spanx, where we have to struggle to put ourselves into the suit?” I asked to no one in particular.
Carefully, I put one leg and then the other into the suit, pulling it up, over my body and have Anna zip it up. When we walk out, it’s obvious we’ve done something wrong when Michael takes one look at us and stifles a laugh.
“You’ve put them on inside out,” he says.
You’ve got to be kidding.
“So we have to go back in and put them on again? We can’t just go like this?” I asked, dreading having to pull the suit off only to flip it right side and pull it back on my body … again.
“Sorry, yeah,” he says.
I hate this already.
Finally, we emerged, suits on correctly, and head to the beach with our boards in tow.
“You will need to stretch first,” Michael instructed, beginning to do lunges. “Your legs are going to be shakey and tired if you don’t.”
The four of us, feet sinking into the sand, at the brim of the Baltic, attempt to loosen our legs.
Then, he begins to guide us through the basics of stand-up paddle boarding.
“You will start on your stomach,then, move one leg under your body and to the middle of the board, the sweet spot, and then the other. We’ll practice like this for a bit, then we will stand up.”
After showing us how to stand up, he goes through paddling. It’s an upper torso stroke, not an arm stroke.
“If your arms hurt, you’re doing it wrong,” he says, placing his opposite hand on top of the paddle and moving his upper body towards the oar. “This is the right way to paddle.”
I think back to the time I went kayaking in the Mediterranean. The circles I did in the water. Not being able to make it to the island without being towed.
He lifts his board and steps into the water, through feet of seaweed.
We follow suit, pulling the large boards behind us and stepping into the gooey mass of tangly weeds.
Immediately, the icy cold water sends shocks through my feet.
Thank goodness for wet suits.
We trudge through the seaweed and into the water.
“So, now we get on the boards,” he says, putting his upper body on the board and then pulling his legs on.
The other women I am with have no problem.
I try to do the same, flinging my body up. It’s not easy, but it isn’t as hard as I imagine either.
“Now, we need to get further out into the water,” he says, dipping his hands into the water and paddling with them, oar under his body.
I do the same, plunging my hands into the water. Like with my feet, the cold water sends shocks through me. But, after a few minutes, under the sun that finally decided to come out, it is refreshing.
Once we’ve gotten far enough out, it’s time to try to stand.
Slowly, board dipping from side-to-side, I manage to pull myself onto my knees.
I’m kind of doing it.
I stay like this for awhile. Attempting to paddle, but the current and I aren’t friends. While the others stick together, I end up floating away from them.
Michael sees I’m straying and gets off his board and comes to get me.
“You’re pulling me in, eh?” I ask, being taken back to the kayak in Spain.
“You are just getting a little away from us,” he assures.
I prolong the stand-up part of the stand-up paddle boarding experience for a bit longer, trying to convince myself I can do it.
When the others stand and begin to paddle, I realize I have to do the same.
So, wobbly, and pulse thumping in my ears, I slowly try to stand.
“Put one leg under your body,” Michael instructs, keeping an eye on what I’m doing. “Now, move your other leg.”
I do so.
“Now, stand up,” he guides.
Holy crap. I am standing. On a paddle board. In the sea.
“Now, paddle,” he says.
My thighs shake. I can’t move. Not yet.
I try to focus on a spot in the sea, like I do in yoga when trying to balance.
But, this is a moving sea. And the focus shifts. And I am distracted by the fear of falling.
I dip the paddle in the water. I feel the board dip to the left. To the right.
Don’t fall. Don’t fall.
I try again. This time, the board wobbles too much and I can’t keep my balance.
Then, I am face-first in the water. In the Baltic Sea.
Rather than being upset I’ve fallen, upset I couldn’t stay on the board, I am invigorated as the water hovers at my neck.
I’ve just fallen into the Baltic Sea. Fallen off of a paddle board I never imagined I’d ever be on. This rocks.
We continue in the water for another hour.
Well, Michael and I do. The others have gone in.
After my last attempt, which resulted in another plunge, I decide my “light” adventure is done for the day. I don’t want to admit it to Michael, so I at least keep the oar in my hands as I ply him with questions about his background. Turns out, like me, he is an avid traveler. He’s working the beach house this summer after a stint in Normandy working at a brewery.
The two of us straddle our boards, letting the water gently bob us and send us back to shore.
When Eric comes to the beach and waves his arms at us, letting us know it’s time to come in, I actually don’t want to.
Maybe I will give it one more go before my time here ends …
He waves his arms some more.
Or maybe I won’t …
We head back to solid ground and I peel off my suit. It’s time to go to lunch, a quick bike ride away.
“I haven’t ridden a bike in more than a decade,” I tell Anna. “Maybe this is a bit too much adventure in a day for me?”
This time, she lets me off the hook as we head to Lomma’s new harbor.
“Light” adventure: accomplished. At least a little bit.
Editor’s Note: All photos are courtesy of Lomma Beach House. My time in Sweden is courtesy of Visit Sweden, however all opinions are my own. If you have questions regarding this, please read my disclosure policy. Want more on Sweden? Follow along in Twitter and Instagram, #myswedentrip.