Never Say Never… Again

Lisa Schell

What’s that old saying? “Never say never, ’cause you never know?” Yeah. I don’t listen very well, I guess.

Case #1: I will never sit in a kayak

In 2000 I said, “I will NEVER paddle a sit-in kayak! I don’t have the intestinal fortitude for that.
Well, the sit-on-top I learned to paddle on has been sold to one of the kids and I have a Greenland roll in my bag of kayak tricks. That happened after a trip to Alaska where, in order to kayak, I needed to wear a skirt. Around the cockpit. Because of the cold water.

Case #2: I will never ride a fixie

In 2002 I said, “I will NEVER ride a single speed bike! Why would I ever want to give up gears?”Well, I now have two single-speed bikes- the mountain bike is my absolute favorite and the modified track bike carried me to my first double century in the MS-150 ride several years ago. Riding the single speed on single track trail most definitely made me a stronger, more skilled and strategic cyclist.

Lisa Schell

Case #3: I  will never prone paddleboard

In 2013 at my first Carolina Cup, when I saw people on prone boards I said, “I will NEVER prone. That just looks too hard. It’s crazy.”Fast forward a few months later and Katie is trying as hard as she can to get me to get off her Bark prone board, which I am gleefully paddling away with a ridiculous grin on my face.

Never say never.

‘Cause if and when you do, you are destined for glory. Or doomed. Depending on your perspective.

About a year after I tried to steal Katie Elzer-Peter’s Bark, I now am the proud owner of my own 12-foot Surftech Bark Commander. I have had it just a few weeks and paddling it is infectious. And I’ll just admit it up front, when I get on it, I feel like a real bad a$$ – even though I will most definitely end up swimming for a bit, and I’ll look like a spaz if I am doing intervals. Or even if I’m not. I have NEVER been one to wear sleeveless tops in any activity – except maybe yoga (I’ll come back to yoga in a minute) or a baseball cap backwards but now, I won’t think of donning anything else when I get ready to prone. So, let’s just say that being on the traditional paddle board gives me a certain confidence that has been missing in my paddling pursuits.

It seems like the prone board is the single speed of paddling craft

Minimalist. No paddle, just like no gears. You have to really pay attention to what your body is doing in relation to the board, in the same way you really have to pick your lines when you are single speeding. And most importantly, momentum is your friend. You have to keep it going on the board or you will fall and you can’t hesitate when transitioning to your knees, in much the same way you can’t hesitate when you go over a log or a downhill drop on the bike. Some people who ride single speed bikes say they feel more connected to it and they experience a sense of freedom that you don’t get when you are worried about shifting. Or dropping your chain because you worried too much about shifting. Let’s just say it’s more “organic.” I’ve noticed something similar on my Commander: I feel more connected, via my hips, thighs and knees to the board and consequently what it is doing in the water, and to the water itself as my hands and arms glide through it. Catch a runner, bump or boat wake on the prone, and you are suddenly freakin’ Aquaman in a tank top.

Lisa Schell

But there’s an even bigger parallel between prone paddle boarding and yoga. When I was having trouble getting my roll in the kayak, the light finally came on when I realized that the whole process – from set up to that final arching of the back as the boat rights itself – was like a yoga sequence or vinyasa. Vinyasa or sometimes called “flow” yoga is a series of poses or movements linked together in a flowing manner, by the breath. When practiced mindfully, it’s a series of small moves that become one great big smooth one. Sun Salutations are a good example. Making that transition on the prone board from lying flat to knee paddling is like going from cobra pose, through reverse plank and back into child’s pose. Do it mindfully, using your breath to keep you and the board steady, but with purpose and without hesitation. Then move right into the next pose, which is your paddle stroke.

Why I am so stoked to be in The Prone Zone

Anything that makes me a more mindful paddler, whether I am on my tummy or on my knees or sitting up or standing up, has got to be a good thing. And that’s one of the reasons why I am so stoked to be in The Prone Zone. Call me a Pronetagonist. A Pronista. It is also a good break for my shoulders. They are doing something that feels more like swimming and they are getting worked in a different way. At least that’s what it feels like.

The Commander and I haven’t been in salt water yet, and the first boat wake that hosed me on Lake Jordan produced a weird gurgle of a alien scream from somewhere down deep inside that scared me as much as the waves did. The second one had me squealing with pure joy. Today, I discovered that if you paddle backwards, eventually you can make the board almost spin around. The feeling is so…silly that you just have to burst out in laughter. Today, I couldn’t stop laughing.Lisa Schell

Every session, I get a little bit stronger, a little less wobbly. I am inspired to learn and improve by people like John Beausang and Chris Aguilar who just did the 32-mile Catalina Classic – from Two Harbors on Catalina Island to Manhattan Beach, California and who will be proning down the Tennessee River for that same distance in this year’s Chattajack race.

Now, that’ something I will NEVER do. Really. Promise. 🙂