Recently I was asked to create at story about outdoor recreation for the Wisconsin Public Radio program ‘Wisconsin Life‘. With such unseasonably warm weather I managed to get my stand up paddle board out onto Madison’s lakes earlier than ever before. So I went out on Lake Wingra with my digital recorder to gather sound and an experience to write a short essay. ~JEM
Spring has come early to Wisconsin this year. It’s a warm day in March when I strap my Stand Up paddle board to the roof of my car and make the short drive to Madison’s Lake Wingra.
Winter’s ice has only just retreated and the clear open water ripples beneath bright sunshine. So early in the season the boat docks haven’t yet been put in place and I’m among the first to venture out.
Eleven feet four inches long, my board eases in to the chilly water. Dressed in neoprene booties, Lycra tights and a life jacket I hold the board steady with one foot, the other planted firmly on the wooden pier as I adjust the length of my paddle. I push away from shore with a gentle kick propelled just a little by a light breeze from the south.
I’m a little out of practice after the winter, so it takes a few strokes of the paddle to find my center of balance on the board, to set my feet. Within minutes, though, I find that familiar rhythm as I sweep the blade through the water past the tall brown marsh grass and freeze-dried cattails along the shore. Standing tall above the water I can see swaying lake weeds beneath me and schools of blue gill that dart out before the rushing surge of my board.
Faster now, the wind at my back, the lake’s current carries me toward the far shore. With a starboard turn I paddle along the beach front … locking breath and pulse to each stroke … building first then settling to a sustainable cadence.
Turning again into the wind I set a course straight in the direction of a distant tree. Matching each sweep of the paddle left side, right side and back again the blade balances the arch of travel to pull evenly through the water ever forward. Canadian Geese honk with encouragement as I go past and a family of ducks scatters, taking flight.
With this lake all to myself I feel uniquely part of a great whole. Surrounded by water and wildlife, astride my board, I too can fly like the birds . And as the sun slowly sets, I can see on the horizon many more great adventures on the lakes and rivers of Wisconsin.
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