We won a free paddleboarding session
We loved Roatan Island in Honduras for many reasons. The sunset, the diving on the beautiful Mesoamerican coral reef, the people we met, and the little adventures we had. Upon attending the drum circle event in the Sundowners beach bar and visiting Roatan’s Facebook page, we won a free paddleboarding session from Steve’s Paddle Shack. We expected a nice and fun workout, but I had no idea that it led me to a little adventure I was about to taste.
It was Monday afternoon. We had spent the whole day before doing the PADI Open Water diving course with the Atlantic Sea Divers, and now we were about to take our free paddleboarding session. I’m a little timid for water sports, especially ones that required standing up and balancing on a surf board, but as a sunset lover, I would never miss the chance of watching the sunset from the paddleboard floating on the bay. Roatan’s sunset is among the best that we’ve seen and it had been reliably gorgeous every single day.
About a half an hour before the sunset, we were ready with our paddleboards at the shallow water of beautiful Half Moon Bay. I was a little bit nervous because this will be my first attempt standing up on any kind of surf board on water. Good thing that this was not a surf beach with big waves, the barrier reef destroyed the big ones for us far ahead.
I shouted at Ryan, “What if I fall?”
And one of our new friends answered, “Haha, it’s not fun if you don’t fall!”
Ah, okay! So at least it won’t be too embarrassing if I fall.
The briefing was short and sweet:
“Climb up the board. Kneel first, then stand up.”
“Stay on the center to keep balanced.”
“Hold and move the paddle like this.”
“Off you go.”
Eh, that’s it? I was so nervous. I’m a shortie yet feeling so tall standing up on this board. Tall and awkward. I had no interest in falling into the water, to be wet again, after being underwater all day during our diving course.
The short and sweet briefing also covered the safety issue:
“See the darker color in the water? It’s the reef, do not go over it, the current there is strong.â€
I was unsure what I should see. I didn’t see the darker color on the water, thanks to my bad eyesight.
“Which one?”, I shouted to our guide.
“That one. Don’t go near the channel.”
I couldn’t really tell what her finger was pointing at. The water? The horizon? The sun? They are all in the same general direction. Also, it would have been better if I understood what “channel” means. Have I told you that English is not my mother tongue?
But, whatever, I’ll play safe! I’ll stick with our guide! I won’t stray from the group. So I would be safe, right?
And the journey begun!
Without further ado, we paddled along, leaving the beach. The breeze that day felt refreshing on our bodies. Paddleboarding was not as difficult as I was afraid of. After a little struggle at the beginning and calmed myself down, balancing was not hard anymore. My arms are not very strong, but we were moving with the wind and current, so the paddling was light. Ryan and our guide were ahead of me, but I couldn’t see where were the rest 3 friends paddling with us. I was not looking for them though, because I was afraid that turning my head and body around would destroy my balance. Hey, it was my first minute on the paddleboard!
The guide called my attention and pointed at a yellow float ball in some distance in front of us. She said to me that it was the limit, we should not go beyond that point. Ryan that couldn’t hear the conversation was heading toward that direction. She speed up to tell Ryan, and not knowing where else to go, I tagged along.
The guide: “Ryan, come back, do not pass through reef, the current is strong.”
Ryan: “Reef? Where? Down here?” And he looked down.
Bad mistake. Ryan lost his balance and fell to the water. It was funny. We just laughed, while Ryan clambered back onto his board.
I looked to the horizon. The sun was about to sink, gorgeous. Then I remembered that Ryan carried our waterproof camera with him, so we decided to take a quick photo here. The guide was so kind to lend me her dog for posing. Yes, she had her dog with her on the paddleboard, I would love to do that one day. Milo the dog was really cute, and he was so relieved when I returned him to his master’s board.
The guide: “Okay, let’s return to a spot closer to the shore, this is too far.”
After that, everything happened quickly.
Ryan turned around his board, and so did our guide. But that was not the case with me! As I tried to paddled around to the right, currents and the wind blew me back to the left. I couldn’t turn around, and was still facing the open sea. Then I tried to spin to the left, currents and the wind blew me to the right. And again I am still facing the open sea.
Not that I do not know how to paddle. I’ve been paddling the boat, raft, kayak, and so forth. But the wind and current were strong moving toward the open sea. In normal days, the current in this spot is not usually strong. But on this windy day, it was worse. And my small and weak arm muscles didn’t help the situation either. Every time my board is at an angle, the current would push it back aligned with itself again. Suddenly I realized that I was quite close to the yellow floating ball, being pushed along by the current much faster than I realized.
My guide came to rescue. I was told to kneel down for a better balance balance and reducing the impact of wind. She managed to pull my board so now it was facing the shore again. Phew, what a relief! Now we just needed to paddle straight to the direction of the shore.
Paddle, paddle, paddle. I paddled forward as hard as I could. But instead of leaving the yellow ball behind, now the ball lay between me and the shore. Oh no! Had I moved backward? I kept paddling forward, but the distance kept increasing!
What the heck is happening?
The strong wind and current dragged me out to the sea. I was moving backward. Ryan and the guide are pretty strong paddlers, that’s how they moved forward. I was “apparently” (as I just found out) too weak!
I shouted: “Help me! I’m paddling as hard as I can, but I’m moving backward. What should I do? ”
The guide: “Paddle harder!”
Me: “This is as strong as I can! I’m not kidding!”
The guide: “Harder!”
Me: “This is my hardest!”
I tried my hardest. Of course. Who wants to get swept away by a sea current and lost in the ocean? Of course I paddled my hardest.
Ryan shouted to the guide: “She is not very strong, she’s trying her best and not moving forward. She needs help. ”
The guide told Ryan to paddle toward the others, while she would help me. Ryan wanted to help as well but she did not let him because if Ryan got swept as well, then she’d have to rescue 2 persons.
I guessed we were about above the reef. But I didn’t bother looking down to find that out, that seemed like a not so important detail at the moment. I looked at my far right and left, apparently I started leaving the bay area. I was dragged to the channel.
Without paddling at all, I got dragged fast. Even by paddling hard, I still moved backward, only not as fast. Great options, right!
To paddle to the shore, or not!
Thank goodness finally she reached me. I felt safe now, I knew she could do it. Now the idea was, she would somehow drag my board behind her. She is a strong lady with powerful muscles, but this was not a simple thing, since we had no rope. How were we going to attach our boards together?
We tried many different ways, and here are a few.
She had a bungee cord on her board. With one end attached to her board and the other end on my hand, “hold it with all the strength you have,” and she started paddling again. Worked for several seconds until it snapped off her board. Fail.
She secured the string end to her board again, and the other end to a little hole on my board. The whole moment we were not paddling, we got dragged even further away from the shore. The further we got, the stronger current and wind got. This time I had free hands so I could help the paddling. Unfortunately, the string snapped again. Fail.
She clutched my paddle with both her feet in kneeling position, and I hold the other end with both hands. We finally managed to keep the 2 boards together. She was paddling hard, and I helped with foot kicking. But unfortunately we are still moving backwards.
The whole time I was busy holding on and paddling. I had not paid much attention to the front. Now that I looked up, the shore was already far away. I couldn’t see Ryan and other friends anymore, they were blending with the background. I couldn’t even see the yellow ball anymore! What the heck!
By now she was quite frustrated. We were running out of ideas of what can make us move forward. Amazingly, I was still able to enjoy the scenery. Yes, it was breathtaking to see the bay that caught the golden pink rays from the setting sun, from a board like this. Unfortunately I couldn’t look back to the horizon, but I bet the sunset was amazing.
I felt a bit worried. I realized that me and her alone (okay, and Milo the dog), wouldn’t be able to get us back to shore. She wouldn’t have a problem without me, but with me, it was just too heavy. I didn’t feel threatened though, because my guide hadn’t use her last weapon yet: her mobile phone to call for help. A rescue boat would be delightful. Hopefully Ryan realized what was going on here and asked somebody to help.
At that time, fortunately I was not thinking about sharks. Sharks generally do not interfere and hunt humans. I love Scuba diving and of course I would love to see sharks. But not in my current circumstances, that would just make me panic.
What about Ryan?
Ryan had to paddle against current too. We moved backward much faster than Ryan moved forward though. By the time Ryan reached our friends, we were already far out there. As I said, it all happened really quick. Ryan looked back at us, and surprised to find us near the horizon, far out of the bay. He realized we didn’t make any progress and were getting further and further away. He was about to paddle to the shore to call for help.
Before Ryan reached the shore though, apparently a boat owner and his friend saw 2 paddleboarders in trouble. Without anybody asking for their help, the observant and kind men jumped into their boat and zoomed toward us.
Wow! How delighted I felt when I saw this small blue and white boat approaching! Hooray! A few minutes later, the boat was right next to us! A man helped me climb into the boat, and the other man grabbed my paddle and the board. I smiled ear to ear, relieved! I was surprised that my guide decided to stay on the paddleboard, not coming with the rescue boat. But oh well, she is a very strong lady, I didn’t hesitate a second that she could handle this current and wind if I was not tagging along. I expressed my deepest gratitude for her to be with me the whole time and kept me safe (and dry!) so far, and my apologies that my weakness caused the trouble.
Looking at the shore from the boat, wow, I see how far we got swept away. The distance from the mouth of the bay to the point I got rescued is multiple times the distance from the mouth of the bay to the where we started. Wow!
I uttered my deepest thanks to the boatmen that just picked me from the water, and one chuckled and replied, “What were you doing out there anyway? Trying to paddle to Belize?”
Ouch! Haha! That got me laughing hard, removed all my worries and panic. Now, all I felt was relief. And stunned by this weird experience.
Thanks a million, Sir, you saved my life! Without you, this exciting evening may not have had such a happy ending!
~ ~ ~ The End ~ ~ ~
- Do not avoid paddleboarding because of this article. Paddleboarding is a fun activity and relatively safe, if done properly. Anyway, I think your muscles can’t be weaker than mine
- Thanks to my rescuers: Dawn of the guide, Marvin ship owner, and his friend. You guys are my Roatan Heroes!
- Thanks to Steve’s Paddle Shack that provided the free paddleboarding session and Carlos that made it happen.
- Special shout out to Carlos, Paulette, and Juan, our friends that paddleboarded with us that afternoon.
What about you? Ever gone paddleboarding? Ever been swept out to sea?