After accepting a friend’s challenge to paddle up to seven miles for a fundraiser, I swallowed Tylenol, sprayed on sunscreen, donned fast-drying clothes, a hat, and sunglasses. People and dogs gathered in Winter Haven, Florida, at the park near the Harborside Restaurant, to launch boats, paddleboards, kayaks and canoes. The usual athletes were there: Dr. Don and Audrey Nettlow, Dr. Rob and Pat Lerner, Jean, Gina Wysock, and dozens of others. One lady brought her dog. The dog wore a life vest while he rode along on the bow.

paddling woman with dog

Don and Audrey loaned me a kayak. Audrey recently opened a business teaching people how to use paddleboards and she sells them through Paddleboard of Winter Haven Though the boards resemble surfboards, they are remarkably stable. One paddler passed me with a cooler on his paddleboard. Soon people and dogs were in their watercraft and the race began. While many took on the seven-mile route, I cheerfully chose the 4-mile challenge, because I can’t remember the year I last rowed anything on the water. After considering the humiliation of being towed I decided that the seven-mile route might be beyond my reach. So off we went.

Paddling by paddleboardA group of seven in a long canoe raced ahead and became the halfway marker, floating at Lake Eloise near the canal to Lake Lulu. The canoe looked like something Louis and Clarke might have used. Along the way Gina Wysock and I shared news of our daughters: weddings, school, how much we miss them and pray for their happiness. Gina demonstrated with ease how to operate a paddleboard.

At the edge of Lake Eloise, the lake best known for Cypress Gardens and LEGOLAND, I took a photo of the long canoe and headed back through Lake Lulu to the launching dock. Jean rowed from the front of a canoe. Her mother sat in the back. Jean’s long legs didn’t fit so comfortably in the front of the canoe so she rowed with her feet dangling in the water. A small snake swam over her foot and continued up her leg into the canoe. Jean’s calm call for help attracted a gentleman in a kayak who used his paddle to scoop out the reptile and fling him back into the lake. We can say that no creatures were harmed in the making of this event.

One serious kayaker roared past me so fast I thought he could pull a skier. He was on his way back from the full seven-mile route. He left a wake!

Though not the first in any category of the race, I wasn’t the last. My usual Saturday morning is spent either at my laptop or flying with hubby. Hubby had committed to attend the men’s breakfast at church where he serves on the board. This break from routine encouraged me to push my limits. I am years away from keeping up with my athletic pals, but their companionship is worth all efforts. I was proud of beating Rob and Pat to the launch site until they said they paddled the full seven miles. Proud of you two!

Bet my pals didn’t even get blisters or have to get by on Tylenol for days afterward. I am not a complete hermit writer after all.

Rob and Pat Lerner

paddling challenge

Pin It on Pinterest