I almost made it home tonight before the rain really started coming down. Almost.
The slight drizzle hung around for a while and was easy to ignore, but as I was hurrying home I could tell the rain was picking up. But it was ok, I was only a few minutes away from being home and dry.
Only I stopped to watch someone wakeboarding in the rain.
Yes, I know this was not a particularly bright thing to do. But I couldn’t resist. Many of the people we generally see on weekends at the Wakedock are clearly amateurs. Some look very young. Others look older but you can see they’re still unsteady on the board. Their focus is on making it back and forth along the zipline without flopping face first into the water. Those with a little bit more skill or experience might even be able to turn around without having to stop, or if they do come to a stop, it’s a controlled one, sinking slowly once their forward momentum ceases. But that’s really all I’ve been seeing lately. It’s been a while since I’ve seen anyone on the ramps.
So today I stopped to watch a guy who clearly had one practice goal: stick the landing on one of the ramps.
And he tried.
He tried more times than I photographed. He kept trying when I turned around and continued on my way home, rather wetter for my brief photographic sojourn. Sometimes he even succeeded, but more often than not he didn’t.
I don’t know anything about this person. (Truth be told, even my assumption of his gender is nothing more than that – an assumption, mostly for ease of grammar use.) Perhaps he is really determined to advance his skill set. Maybe he aspires to compete. Or maybe he’s just some guy who spends his days in the office and his weekends keeping relatively fit with jogging and the gym and simply didn’t want to lose the money he paid for the training session because of the weather. I don’t know.
But for those five or seven minutes that I stood there, taking photos and watching him zip up and down the length of the course, I was entranced with the fact that he was there, for whatever reason, doing his thing under less than optimal conditions. Of course, with water sports, rain only adds a limited amount of additional obstruction. You’re already wet, and have taken a dunking or two in this case. But still, visibility isn’t great. The sky is dull and heavy. The air is fresh and breezy. And there’s water all over you and around you and flying in your face whether you are skimming along on the surface or going under.
Coincidentally, I am currently reading a manuscript written by a good friend of mine in relation to her own unusual athletic endeavour, and it has reminded me of my own youthful pursuits. Both of us were, in fact, on the same rowing team in high school – another water based sport that can often find you practicing it in adverse weather conditions. However, although both of us were equally hooked by the uniqueness of rowing, we were very different in our execution of it. I loved it, but clearly not enough to push myself well past my limits. I was not one of those who would run, lift weights, do circuits, puke my guts out, and then jump straight onto the erg to continue. By the time I finished high school I was quite technically proficient with the oar, but I had limited endurance and strength. My coach once told me that I rowed like a ballerina. It was not a compliment. She didn’t want ballerinas, she wanted powerhouses. It’s no surprise that I never made it past the lower ranks of the Junior Varsity team in high school and then quit after a semester in college. The truth is that competitive rowing is brutal and is not for the faint hearted. And while excellent technique is certainly advantageous, and is definitely useful if you’re trying to stabilise a novice boat full of complete amateurs who’ve never held an oar before, it’s not particularly highly valued by coaches at the collegiate levels. Being able to pull your weight and then some under poor conditions over 2000 yards can overcome all manner of sins in the technical department. The converse does not hold true however. Perfect technique will not have you welcomed with open arms if you can’t deliver the erg scores.
My friend, well… she was different. She may not have always achieved the targets she set her sights on athletically, but by god it was not from her lack of trying or effort. My memory is hazy after all these years, but I think she did manage to make it to Varsity by senior year, though perhaps not the first boat. I believe she went on to row in college. Since then she has moved on to other athletic challenges and is conquering them with the same sort of determination I remember in high school.
I don’t know anything about the person I was watching today zipping back and forth along the water, but for a few minutes, I could pretend that I did. I could pretend that he was like my friend – determined to conquer that mountain (or in this case, ramp) in whatever manner possible, getting back up again, and again, and again. I stood there, in the steadily increasing rain, remembering the feel of being out on the water during practice sessions in similar weather – the same fresh, wet smell of rain, the same clammy feel of your rain gear sticking to your spandex as my summer Gore-Tex raincoat felt like today. The feel of water on your fingers as you’re trying to handle objects. The splash of rain on your face. That odd sensation of rain being cold but at the same time bathed in the humidity of your own sweat. I remember the effort to convince yourself to go out there, and the sense of relief (and sometimes even accomplishment) of coming off the water and changing into dry clothes.
This is not something that is a part of my life now. Yes, I try to work out. I swim when I can, go to yoga when I can tear myself away from the opportunity to indulge my inner workaholic. But I am not currently in a shape that I would consider athletic. I comment back and forth with my husband when we’re wandering along the canal about whoever can be seen wakeboarding and their technique knowing full well that I speak from zero experience and that their jerky, stilted efforts of staying in control could very well be vastly superior to anything I would be able deliver if I tried. I am cognizant that my lack of passion for exercise keeps me from pushing past that wall every athlete encounters at some point. And that my current life, with a toddler and a full time job, is not conducive to nurturing that particular level of athletic fanaticism.
But every once in a while it’s nice to relive those days, remember the blisters and the callouses, count the scars, recall the bests and the worsts. And who knows, maybe this little bit of nostalgia will just be the last little bit of motivation I need to push me out of my current exercise slump and back into the pool.