The Power of Paddling with Nature,
by Alyson Follenius
Lately, I have spent a lot of time contemplating why I am so drawn to the water. It has been like that for me from a very early age. Maybe it was because my parents had me in the pool at six months old learning how to swim or running around the beach stark naked. All this naturally led to my becoming a swim instructor and Stand Up Paddler. Needless-to-say, I spend A LOT of time IN water. But somehow, I believe it is deeper reason than learning to swim so early. It’s more of a primal, instinctual or soul level attraction. The magnitude of energy that the ocean exudes and its ability to shift our energy when in its presence always amazes me. So, like many of us, the ocean has become a place for contemplation, grounding … and lots of learning.
I awoke one morning last week feeling heavy. Rather than sit in meditation at home, I decided to - well needed to -, head down to the ocean for some time to meditate and practice yoga on the beach. My Starboard Allstar and my trusty Kialoa paddle were already loaded on my car just in case I decided I needed to hop on the water. My intention that morning was to stay at the beach until I had cleared myself of all that negative energy.
A few days earlier I went out for a paddle in the same spot with my dear friend, Evelyn O’Doherty. The ocean had provided us with perfect conditions for a blissful paddle. It was warm out, so neoprene was NOT in the picture. As a North East Paddler, this makes us happier than I am able to articulate in words. On our way along the coast, we passed another paddler who told us there has been a baby humpback whale breaching and feeding on the schools of Bunker nearby. We proceeded with excited caution as we paddled over numerous large schools of Bunker and the Bass feeding on them from below. The energy that day was electric, as each time we approached another dark spot in the water we knew the possibility of what creature might be swimming beneath the surface. With the Bunker dancing below and making waves of their own, I shared how it has always been a dream of mine to be in the same body of water paddling with a whale, dolphin or other cetaceans. The whale did not reveal itself that day, but it was a glorious paddle nonetheless.
Fast forward to the morning I woke up feeling heavy.
I make my way to the beach and ask, pray or whatever term you’d like to place there, for some help clearing those unwanted feelings. As I walk toward the water, I see an older gentleman coming in from his paddle. He had a fishing rod with him so, naturally, I ask if he caught anything. He shares he was fishing for Bass, but that it was tricky with the thick silver schools of Bunker. The Bass, he said, were feeding on them from below so he couldn’t quite reach them. He shares how he had been down there the previous Sunday (the day after Evelyn and I paddled) surf casting on his board and had seen this baby humpback whale.
I immediately get chills and was beyond excited by the possibility that perhaps the whale had stuck around. We share a casual conversation about fishing and my dream of paddling with a whale. He returns to his truck to put his paddle and fishing pole away and I continue staring out into the ocean. Off to my left I see some white water as though a wave had crashed. However, there were no waves to break like that on the ocean this day. It was flat. I knew in that moment the humpback was back. Just then, it reveals itself almost in the grand gesture as if to say, “Here I am.”
Unable to contain myself, I excitedly run up the beach and scream to my new friend that the whale was back. Without a moment to think, he grabs his paddle. I head over to my car and unload my gear faster than I ever had before. I already had chills knowing what was about to happen. I could feel the warmth of the adrenaline running through my veins and run down the beach. We became immediate friends as we paddled out together in hopes of witnessing this majestic creature. We continue sharing about ourselves as we paddle out and make our way West toward the next beach when, all of a sudden, about 250 yards in front of us the baby humpback whale breaches with its mouth wide open. It was, undoubtedly, scooping up loads of Bunker. I am in complete awe and overcome by the pure magic and wonderment of it all.
In that moment, all of the heaviness and sadness immediately washed away. I asked the universe for a clearing and it provided the most incredible experience I have possibly witnessed.
My new friend and I continue to paddle and watch the whale play, breach and feed. It must have shown itself over a dozen times to us in that hour. Each time, it was more fun that the last. Honestly, I’d love to know how many tons of fish it ate in that short while.
I left the beach that day swimming in pure love and gratitude. It was as if the ancient wisdom of these creatures sent out another reminder that dropping into a place of love and gratitude will shift ANY mood. Maybe, our attraction to the water is just this. It is a place for us to learn and grow. I will forever be grateful for the lessons learned on the water that day (and always): Connect with nature. Connect with each other. Be playful. Be spontaneous. Get out of your head. Get out of your comfort zone. But most importantly, LOVE and BE GRATEFUL.
Be well - Alyson D. Follenius, East Hampton NY
Comments will be approved before showing up.