I’m just about to hit post on my latest instagram selfie. When the screen lights up. An incoming phone call takes me away from the land of social media.
As I answer. My buddy asks. “You want to paddle in a six man canoe?” Before I can even process the question. The words “yes” leave my mouth. He responds. “Awesome, this is going to be a great time.” And hangs up.
I am impulsive. There is no questioning that. Especially when it comes to trips and adventures with the SUP community.
Why? That is simple. I have yet to have a bad time on one of these trips. East Coast. West Coast. Mexico. Caribbean. They all have been life changing. And positive experiences. Meeting new friends. Reconnecting with old ones. And seeing the world from the water.
As I was sitting in Southern California. I was getting into that comfortable spot. My routine building. Yoga. SUP Surfing. Gym. SUP race training. And writing. I made a decision to stay put for the month as I had a big travel year. And a few big trips coming up in December.
And then that phone call happened.
My good friend and owner of 9th Island SUP in Las Vegas, Braly Joy. Extended the invitation to join him and another friend of ours, Brad Kingsley of SIC. In the OC 6 for a race happening in Arizona.
How could I turn down this opportunity? It would be my third time in a boat. The other two times were about 30 minutes worth. They were the perfect introduction. But just a sample of what paddling as a team is like. And I was ready to set out on a full race. With some great friends.
The race was about two weeks out. Parker, Arizona was the destination. It was the home of “Another Dam Race”. A race and place I’ve heard so much about. The community. Party. Food. Music. These things just kept fueling my excitement for the event.
The idea to drive out. About five hours. Was tossed around. But on the tail end of this trip was a quick family vacation to the Gulf Coast of Florida. I was torn.
Then Braly, mentioned. “Fly to Vegas, we will paddle Lake Mead. Then we will drive to the race together. And you can fly to Florida from Las Vegas.”
That is all I needed to hear. The flights were booked. I was 100% commited. This was about to become an epic desert adventure.
As I arrived in Las Vegas. Braly met me at the Airport. The first words out of his mouth were. “Uncle Rick needs us to practice tonight, where are your boardies?” This put the biggest smile on my face. From the airport to the lake. Talk about the perfect start to an adventure.
As you drive down through Boulder City, Nevada, Lake Mead stares you straight in the face. It is a massive body of water. Surrounded by red mountains. That reach to the heavens. The shoreline, is a unique one. There are spots of beach gradually reaching the water’s edge. And others. The ones we see from afar. Sheer cliffs of walls of rock. Resembling the edges of a freshly cut birthday cake.
It is about an hour before sunset and the sky is already producing a magical light show. Purples. Pinks. Colors that only appear on priceless painting in a museum.
This night. Turned into groundhog day. Nights of breath taking sunsets. On the water. With the Southern Nevada Outrigger Team. Paddling as a team in the OC 6. Each person so helpful in sharing tips on how to paddle properly. How to stay in a rhythm and work as a team. The experience was rewarding. It was great to be a student. Again.
And now. It was time to head south. Through the desert. To the race. Another Dam Race.
As we left Las Vegas, both Braly and I were a bit confused. We felt like we were leaving something. This race. Was the first. Where the “board”, a 40 foot long boat. Was being brought by someone else. Along with the paddles. So we left. Empty handed.
As we arrived in Parker, Arizona. The vast desert land vanished. And an oasis appeared. Palm trees. Water. And a paddle community. Outrigger canoes. Stand Up Paddleboards. Prone paddleboards. And lots of them. All in the middle of the desert.
After taking in the sights. Saying our hellos. And doing our registration duties. We jumped back in the cars and headed ten miles up river. To meet Uncle Rick and the team.
The race is a point to point. Paddling down river. With the current at our back. The finish is the host of the post race festivities. And where we checked in.
In typical race setting the night before the race was calm. People enjoying dinner together. Catching up. Sharing stories of their trips through the desert. And adventures from the season. Braly, Brad and myself met up with the team. Uncle went over some strategy for the next day. Provided his knowledge and experience. Helping calm the giant butterflies that filled my stomach.
Race day morning brought perfect conditions. Clear, bright blue sky. Crisp morning air. Light winds. And the energy buzzing through the event site.
As we made our way down to the water, over 70 boats were lined up. And 100 SUPs followed them. A site that most race directors dream of. The best part. We were hundreds of miles from the ocean. In the middle of the desert.
The race lived up to the expectations. Paddlers on all the different crafts. With ear to ear smiles. People lined the banks of the river. Cheering us on. As if we were running the Boston Marathon. The positive words from the crowd encouraged us to dig a little deeper. Paddle a bit harder. To get to the approaching finish line party.
And a party it was. Celebratory high fives. Hugs. All handed out. We all stayed on the beach cheering on each paddler. Just as the others did for us. Solidifying the true community aspect that this sport is all about.
After the last paddlers crossed the finish line. We made our way over to the award ceremony which was located a short walk away. A grass lined amphitheater served up the perfect place to sit. Exchange stories. And enjoy a delicious meal.
As the day began to wind down. The energy continued into the night. And weekend. The sense of community that makes these events possible. Encourage us all to continue to come back. This one was unique. As we were not in a paddle mecca. But a place the community transformed into one. By bringing the spirit. Atmosphere. And people out to it. With help from the local paddling community and race organizers.
This experience once again opened my eyes to the strength of a community. So many great friends getting together. All for a great time. Providing support. Knowledge. And with arms wide open. It showed me that paddle communities are everywhere. And as long as there is water. The community will get behind anyone. Making an event like this possible.
And this is why. I impulsively said yes to this adventure. And will continue to say yes. To the ones to come.
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