Remember that 90s girl group, The Spice Girls?
I had the pleasure (?) of chaperoning my daughter and her friends to one of their concerts back in the day. Yes, I got mom points. No, I did not enjoy the eardrum-blowing decibel levels of tens of thousands of shrieking ‘tweens for 2+ hours. Even if I (shhh…don’t tell anyone) sort of enjoyed the music.
But fast forward a few decades to now. Ever since those five British chicks literally popped onto my radar, I tend to catalogue new friends (especially those that come in groups) by which Spice Girl they would be. I know this is truly odd, perhaps bordering on mentally disturbing. But it is what it is. And I’m a strong enough person to admit it to you. Right here. Right now.
Why do I have this weird habit? Who knows. Possibly it has something to do with five energetic girls yelling at me for 120+ minutes to “spice up my life.” That, and my hidden (until now anyway) desire to be seen as more Posh and less Sporty. But I’m always the sporty one. Every. Single. Time. Which is fitting, I guess, even if I’d prefer to imagine myself in Louboutins instead of soccer cleats. But stilettos in the sand? Please.
The truth is, I like athletic endeavors. And I’m pretty good at them. Especially water sports, like kitesurfing and standup paddleboarding. So when I had the chance to do a little SUP while in Puerto Rico a few weeks ago, I was stoked.
Nevermind that I would be paddling with nine women I had just met. And that more than a few of them casually mentioned that they were regular paddlers on their respective Caribbean rocks. And that they never fall off their boards. Ever. #lifegoals
You see, I have this latent competitive streak when it comes to sports. I’ve toned it down to near non-existence since my high school days (I once nearly got into a fight over whether I was safe or out at third base in a softball game), but I know it is still there somewhere. Lurking. I also hate looking like I don’t know WTF I am doing, especially on the water. Obviously, this is just my natural tendency towards insecurity bubbling to the surface (as usual). But it is what it is.
So the stakes were high (in my head…only in my head), as we made our way to the company that offered to take 10 writers on a SUP adventure. Show us a little bit of active San Juan. Give us a different perspective on the city.
I wanted to fit in. I wanted to do well. I NEEDED some sort of physical activity to counteract the copious amounts of tequila/prosecco/wine I was ingesting on an hourly basis. (I’m a writer, remember? In the Caribbean. I drink. Not quite at Papa Hemingway levels, but close when I’m on vacay.)
I most definitely wanted to stay on my damn board. Not only for ego’s sake, but also because, instead of the gin clear water I enjoy on my home rock, we were paddling in a brackish lagoon. Where I couldn’t see the bottom.
Now for most folks, paddling in lake-like conditions is no big deal. I get it. Been there, done that. In fact, I grew up in the Midwest, spending muggy summer nights swimming barefoot in our local, muck-bottomed, fish-infested lake. And I paddled a lot back in the PNW. So it isn’t like I’ve never been exposed to dark water. But that girl is gone, people.
And I am no longer ‘most folks’ anyway. I am a spoiled, Caribbean island girl who likes her water sports best when she can see what’s coming for her. Usually nothing…but one never knows. Better to be safe than sorry is usually (but not always) my motto.
Oh…and did I mention that, despite being a fairly avid paddler before moving to the tropics, I haven’t paddled in a while. A very long while. Like, possibly six years. Turns out that choppy conditions and strong offshore winds, plus having a vehicle not really equipped to haul an 11 foot board, are not conducive to daily SUP activities. So, to put it kindly, my SUP skills were rusty.
But like so many things in my life, I worried for nothing. I didn’t fall off my board. I remembered the basics. I even got my groove back after the first few strokes. My companions were nice, and I had fun. I even managed to temporarily vanquish the perma-hangover I’d had since arriving for the long weekend.
Oh…and I got to pet a manatee. No shit. Not even kidding. We had two freakin’ manatees along for the ride. And they played with us. They’re lagoon regulars, it seems. They’re super smooth to the touch, by the way. Nothing like sharks, who are rough like sandpaper and altogether NOT fun to play with. (How I am capable of making this comparison is another story for another day, my friends.)
So what did I learn from my SUP fun in Puerto Rico? Let’s recap:
- Don’t be afraid of what you can’t see. The scary monsters (ok…fish…mostly fish) are usually just in your imagination.
- Trust yourself. You’re stronger, more capable and talented than you usually give yourself credit for. (Ok…by “you” I obviously mean “me” with this, but I suspect it applies to many women who tend to doubt themselves.)
- Remember that most things are just for fun. (Well, except doing your taxes, that’s not fun at all.) An invitation to SUP with nine total strangers? Younger, fitter, more able-bodied paddlers than you? Go for it. People are probably all as self-conscious as you, and if they aren’t? Well then, girlfriend, learn from those confident bitches!
- Being Sporty Spice isn’t so bad, after all. Yay for coordination and athletic talent. Those traits come in handy once in a while. Even if a little black dress would be more stylish.
And….most important of all…
- If you happen to be in San Juan, definitely hit up the guys at VIP Adventures for a little time on the water. I mean, seriously, they’ve got cute guides and manatees. And a crazy, fun water trampoline obstacle course thingy, too. What more do you need?
I’m a writer living on the Dutch Caribbean island of Bonaire. Originally from the U.S., I followed my heart to the tropics in 2011 at the wizened age of 43. Since then, I’ve been blogging to inspire and entertain. I love kitesurfing, a good gin & tonic, and corgis.
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