Living in Page, just a few miles from Lake Powell, l see a lot of photos of my friends paddleboarding on the lake when I look at Facebook. It looks like a lot of fun. It looks peaceful paddling through one of the lake’s myriad placid side canyons. It looks like a fun family activity.
I see photos of my friends paddling across the lake with their little kids sitting cross-legged on the board in front of them, and lying on their stomachs peering into the clear water over which they glide.
And I imagine my little family doing the same. I picture my two-year-old daughter lying on the board, trailing her fingers in the water, then pulling them out and watching the water drip off. I’m standing a couple feet behind her rowing the paddleboard we share steadily forward across turquoise water that’s flat as a cookie sheet. My wife paddles her own paddleboard beside us.
The turquoise water turns dark as we paddle deeper into a canyon and pass from the sun into the cliff shadow. My daughter now sees her face reflected on the surface of the dark water, like when you see it mirrored on the surface of a gleaming, black piano. That’s when I’d look over at my wife and we’d share a look that says, this is almost perfect.
But, that’s not how it happened at all. Because I have terrible balance, apparently. In early June l borrowed two paddleboards and my wife, daughter and I took them to Lone Rock where we planned to spend the afternoon trying them out.
It was a Friday and Lone Rock was already crowded with dozens of RVs and tents camped along the lake’s edge, and the occupants of those RVs and tents were playing on the lake. Some were jet-skiing, some were water skiing, some were fishing. Some were floating in shallow water relaxing on inflatable water toys. Kids were building sand castles and mud holes.
We pulled our Jeep into a space among the RVs and unloaded our paddleboards, beach blanket, sun umbrella and cooler and staked out some turf on the beach. Smell of sunscreen and the outboard exhaust, which on Lake Powell is the smell of summer.
It’s shortly after noon and our daughter is hungry so while my wife and daughter sit on the beach blanket in the shade of the umbrella and eat lunch, I put on my lifejacket and venture he buoy and back to get warmed up while they’re eating, then we’ll all go out together.
I carry the board into about a foot of water and step up onto it. I don’t get my foot centered quite well enough and it tips to the side and dumps me off. I try it again, this time taking more care to center my foot on the board. I step onto it with my first foot, balance myself and step on with my second foot. The board wobbles side to side like an ambling manatee and, once again, pitches me off the side.
“It’s a little harder than it looks,” I call to my wife.
The next time I lie on the board on my belly, which is way more stable, but as soon as I rise up to my knees the boards starts wobbling around again. I don’t get my weight balanced quickly enough and I fall off the board again.
I have to say I’m a little surprised that I can’t even stand up on the board, let alone paddle along with purpose. I see people do this all the time and they make it look really easy.
By now my wife
and daughter have finished eating and they’re ready to play in the water. My wife tells me that, after watching me flounder around, she’s just going to straddle the board and paddle it like a kayak. We have brought with us a kayak paddle, just in case this happened and Dana gets it from the Jeep. She and Roo put on lifejackets. Dana sits on the paddleboard first, and once she’s comfortably seated I place Roo on the board in front of her, where she sits cross-legged. I give them a little push to get them going. Dana points her nose to deep water and paddles.
Our daughter is content to sit on the board and take in her surroundings, which are quite spectacular.
And pretty. Amazing.
Directly in front of them are some short yellow-brown cliffs from the Jurassic era. On their two o’clock, in the far distance, are some pink and purple cliff faces. And Lone Rock, rising out of the still bay, stands at their eleven o’clock. My wife and daughter venture out onto the lake about 400 feet where they turn around and come back. The paddleboarding equivalent of dipping one’s toes in the water.
The nose of their paddleboard hits the sand but Roo isn’t anywhere close to being done with this invigorating new venture. I mean, what could be better than gliding over a lake, where you can peer into its depths, and trailing your fingers through its warmth?
The ego-ist in me – which prior to the birth of my daughter comprised about 90 percent of my personality and identity – wants to hop on a standup paddleboard and practice until I get it down. It’s just a matter of balancing and perfecting my stance. A little persistence and I got this.
But being a dad is far, far different than my former life.
I am now the father of daughter who, during her two and a half years on earth, has proved to be a curious and smart creature who is very inquisitive and engaged with the world.
And with such commendable attributes in mind, my wife and l have dedicated this as the year that we introduce our daughter to the next level of outdoor engagement, with experiences that are more active than passive. Maybe a little more dangerous than safe.
But still, activities that foster and develop those great human qualities of curiosity and observance. Because she’s taking it in. She’s conscious, aware. Excited about this opportunity to glide over this strange liquid surface. She’s more than happy to be engaged with her natural surroundings. So this year we’re upping our game in an effort to introduce her to the wider world.
So, with that in mind, I set my ego aside, as fathers must do for their daughters, and now it’s my turn to straddle the board. My wife, with a wry grin on her lovely face, hands me the kayak paddle.
And I paddle us out into deep water.
“We’ll go to that buoy and back,” l tell her, “but next time we’ll go all the way around Lone Rock. And I’ll be standing the whole way.”
Roo doesn’t reply to my utterance but she changes her position from meditation lotus and edges to the starboard side of the board and dangles her feet in the lukewarm, first week of June water.
And when I get close enough to shore to make eye contact with my wife we share a look that says, This is almost perfect.
Stand up paddleboarding a wonderful way to spend an afternoon on Lake Powell.
And sit down paddleboarding is pretty great too.