On some days Cornwall is open and wild and it gives you the space to stretch your arms as wide as they can go. On some days it feels like a narrow peninsula with limited routes in or out.
For many people, 'lockdown' stirred feelings of being trapped, contained and restricted. Powerlessness is hard to take when you normally live in such splendid freedom. Never before in our lifetimes had we been told that we can only leave the house once a day for exercise, and even then not to go too far. Stretch your legs, but not too much. Our worlds got incredibly small, incredibly quickly.
Before the first lockdown, stand-up-paddleboarding was an enormous part of my life and integral to my mental and physical wellbeing. The restrictions in place meant that I lost access to the boards I was using, but I was lucky enough to be able to walk on the coast path, getting out in the sea air and keeping my body moving.
Anyone who has read Raynor Winn's The Salt Path - or walked any of the South West Coast Path themselves - will understand the power of gentle, persistent forward motion, powered by nothing but your own body and mind. Put this in an awe-inspiring coastal landscape and you have a magical recipe for getting out of a 'stuck' headspace and into a place of clarity and forward-looking hope.
You can't look down at your wobbly feet whilst you're paddleboarding, or you'll fall in. You've got to look ahead at where you want to go.
During this second lockdown in November, the colder weather makes it seem even more difficult to get out and spend time in or on the water. But now is when we need it the most. With shorter days and less opportunity to get out of the house, windows of good weather have become even more treasured and I'm learning to make the absolute most of them whenever I can.
This time around I'm so happy to have been lent the STRIDE touring board by local Dartmoor-based company Hatha, who specialise in inflatable paddleboards. This means I can get out on the water independently, even in lockdown (as self-supported paddling in safe conditions has been approved by BSUPA). This morning I paddled with a friend who also has her own board, and it was honestly the best part of my week.
I'm so passionate about the benefits of peaceful paddleboarding, and have big plans to integrate women's paddle sessions into Strength in Feathers' programme next year. I'm a qualified instructor with nearly ten years of watersports teaching experience (watersports in the summer, writing and reading in the winter) and feel that it's time to integrate this into my holistic approach to women's wellbeing here in Cornwall.
Please do let me know if you'd be interested in joining me on the water - I'd love to hear your thoughts and meet more of you who are keen to engage in #BlueHealth together.