Over the course of the years, I'd like to think I've pretty much nailed going to the beach. I've got a big, floppy hat and I can man a barbecue with the best of them. Okay, so I don't tan so much as either remain so pale I practically glow in the dark, or burn so fiercely that I'm roughly the same colour as Sebastian the Crab in The Little Mermaid, but on the whole, I reckon I've got the beach thing down.
The sea, however, is another thing entirely. I'm not the strongest swimmer and my sense of balance has never been exactly brilliant. So when my workplace suggested a team-building day out at the beach, doing water sports, my first thought was "Are my financial affairs in order? Because I'm almost certainly going to drown." And then I thought: "I've never worn a wetsuit. What if I look like a beached whale? OH MY GOD, WHAT IF SOMEONE HARPOONS ME?!"
The thing is, I've always been the kind of girl who'll try most things once. I like a challenge, I like an adventure and I kind of like the smell of neoprene. So off I went yesterday, in the blazing sunshine, to the Camel Ski School down in Rock. Ladies and gentlemen, I wore a wetsuit. And there wasn't a harpoon in sight! HOORAY!
The first thing we tried was paddle-boarding (unless you count eating the meat we cooked on the barbecue as the first thing we did, in which case, I was really good at that). I was told that newbies to the sport tend to try it on their knees first, before standing up once they're confident. Being bolshy (it's the Greek in me, I swear), I shook my head and insisted on standing up straight away. To my surprise, I barely wobbled and set off down the Camel Estuary at quite a pace, even managing to manoeuvre my board away from a very large bollard sticking out of the water. "Bloody Hell," I thought. "I'm good at water sports! Who knew?!"
I am WOMAN. Hear me ROAR.
Having gotten to grips with paddle-boarding, next up was kayaking. I was possibly a little over-confident by this point, but I got into the boat without managing to roll it over, which I took as a good sign and the next thing I knew, I was sailing back up the estuary with one of my workmates. Tired thighs and achey arms aside, I discovered that kayaking is not too tricky and lots of fun. Well, not too tricky when you've got a gentle tide and the water's only around four feet deep, anyway... I was doing exceptionally well at not sinking, until I switched crew mate and we attempted to let our Deputy Manager join us in the boat. Next thing I knew, the boat was upside down and I was on my back, thrashing around like a most inelegant seal. No offence to seals.
Check out my oars, baby.
Once we had all finished paddling - in one way or another - up and down the estuary, the tide had come in enough for us to head out on the speedboat and try our hands at water-skiing. I'm not going to lie to you, I was pretty nervous. I'm quite fond of being alive and I had a few visions of disappearing beneath the waves a la Jack in Titanic, whilst my workmates sobbed "I'll never let go..." (as they let go). Still, like I said, I'm a girl who'll try most things once and I'm also a bit of an adrenaline junkie, so somewhere amongst the nervous twitching, there was a voice in my head trying to convince me that I was about to discover a hidden talent for the sport. Did I?
Weeeeeeell... Maybe not. I stood up whilst holding onto the practise bar and I caused our instructor to ask: "Are you sure you've never done this before?!" I was pretty proud of myself for that, given that my sense of balance is so notoriously awful, I've been known to trip over thin air. I progressed on to attempting to actually water-ski, with an actual rope, being tugged along by an actual speedboat. And I experienced actual sinking, yet more seal-like thrashing and actual sea water up my nose. BUT I didn't give up. As I mentioned, I can be pretty bolshy and there was no way I was going to let a body of water and a pair of skis get the better of me. In spite of having actually lost my skis (more than once), I jumped - well, okay, slid awkwardly - back into the sea, put the rope between my skis, got into the first position and gave the shout to our instructor that I was ready to go again. And as the engine roared into life and I felt myself being propelled forwards, I rose out of the water like
Ursula King Triton from The Little Mermaid and I only bloody well went and did it!! I mean, okay, I stood up for roughly 2 seconds. But those were two of the proudest seconds of my year so far!
Today, my body aches like I've been hit by a truck and whilst watching the England game at gone midnight last night, I was still blowing seawater out of my nose (I know - so sexy). But it was totally worth it. Lesson learnt? Give new things a try - you'll only regret it if you don't and you might end up having the time of your life!
With HUGE thanks to Charlie and Faith Toogood and everyone at the Camel Ski School in Rock, North Cornwall. :-)