One thing I’ve learnt from the COVID pandemic is that life is too short to hold back and wait for the ‘right time’ to do things. And now that we can get back out there, I’ve realised I want adventure in my life again. It has inspired me to step out of my comfort zone and stop waiting for other people to ‘hold my hand’, and I’ve decided to finally go for it and take the plunge with a few activities I’ve wanted to dabble in for ages…
When I felt like I needed a change of scene, I was drawn to the beautiful Pembrokeshire coast, where I took surf lessons with Outer Reef Surf School and met an incredible group of women. We spent an exhilarating and exhausting weekend together, with sand in our toes and salt in our hair as we learnt the basics of surfing. A few of us kept in touch after that – we’ve become good friends and surf buddies, meeting when we can to ride some waves… or at least try!
If truth be told, I’m terrible at surfing. I still have an irrational fear of being underwater, but I decided I wanted to overcome that and throw myself in at the deep end (literally!) So, by learning to surf in shallow water, I’m gradually building up my confidence. It’s starting to become more fun (and less scary) when I wipe out and feel like I’m tumbling around in a washing machine of waves, and I’m starting to see progress and improvements each time I surf. But the most important thing is that I’m having fun in the process and it’s given me a new area to focus my energy on.
Not only is it a great form of exercise, but it’s a fun and sociable activity. I love the laid-back surf community and days spent at the beach where I can really switch off and breathe. And I’m glad I took the plunge and decided to go it alone on that trip to Pembrokeshire, where I met some wonderful new friends and learnt a new hobby in the process.
Now those who know me know that I don’t always have the energy to be active all the time (thanks narcolepsy!), and that’s where Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP) comes in. Sometimes, my body and mind need to rest, but I’m the sort of person that hates to feel like I’m wasting my time doing nothing. But SUP is an activity that I’ve found works for me well. On tired days, I can coast along and enjoy some time on the water soaking up nature and moving at my own pace. Or on more energetic days, I can really go for it and give myself a great workout if I want.
I loved the thought of paddleboarding for a long time. So, I started with a SUP taster and immediately got the bug. It’s so addictive… I feel alert and alive when I’m SUPing. It somehow makes me feel more connected to the world we live in, whether I’m pushing myself to go further and faster, or floating along and relaxing on the water.
I found that none of my friends really wanted to get into SUP like I did. So, I decided to go it alone again and did a SUP course at Cardiff’s International White Water Rafting Centre where I learnt all the skills and safety tips I needed. I now go there regularly with my own paddle board to meet the friends I made there, and wherever else I go with my SUP, I’ve discovered another community of people with the same interests who are all welcoming, friendly, and open to a chat on the water.
With a Mountain Leader as my father, hiking in the hills is in my blood. But I’m so used to just following while he takes the lead on amazing days out in the mountains going off the beaten track and discovering amazing places that most people don’t see. It was only when it came to going on walks with friends that I realised I didn’t want to go on the popular, linear, well-known routes all the time anymore. I was starting to find them mundane knowing that there’s so much more out there to be seen. I much prefer going off the beaten track and exploring where most others don’t go.
So, to give me the confidence and competence to do that myself, I learnt to navigate using a map and compass. Starting with a beginners navigation course with Peak Adventures, I learnt the basic skills I needed to find routes, navigate to interest points on a map, and relocate myself when I need to. I thought it would take me an age to grasp map and compass skills, but after just one day in the hills, I was doing it and enjoying it!
And practice makes perfect – I now spend time on our family hikes working on my skills and building my confidence, and I plan to do the next level intermediate course soon too. When I’m more confident at navigating, I look forward to showing my friends the way and introducing them to some less popular hidden gems instead of following the crowd!
Outside your comfort zone is where all the fun begins
What I’ve realised is that there’s no point in waiting for other people to get on board with your ideas. If you want to do something, go somewhere, or try something new, don’t hang around for everyone else. Step out of your comfort zone and do it for yourself! By going it alone, I’ve built my confidence, learnt new skills, picked up new hobbies, and met amazing people along the way. So now, I can enjoy all of this with like-minded people who enjoy the same things in life as me.