"Say what you have to say, and not what you ought."
~ Henry David Thoreau

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Conquering Thalassophobia

I ended 2012 with courage, stubborn determination and quite a bit of swearing. 

Mike had decided that during our vacation in San Diego it would be fun to go on a whale watching tour. In kayaks. In the ocean. I'd never kayaked before, and I'm more than a little intimidated by the ocean, so that wasn't exactly my idea of fun. Gillian was up for the challenge and they both spent weeks trying to convince me to face my fears and live a little.

 During the drive from Utah to California Mike gave me his "it's important to get outside your comfort zones and enjoy life" speech. Like I told him, they're called comfort zones for a reason. I'm completely comfortable not kayaking in the ocean! Why should I make myself uncomfortable? Secretly though, I'd already made up my mind to give it a shot. Of course, this was after I'd Googled the number of people that have been killed during whale watching kayak excursions in the ocean. As it turns out, it's a pretty safe activity. Imagine my dismay.

On New Year's Eve, our last full day in San Diego, we headed out on our great adventure. On the ride from our hotel to the beach, I mentally ran through all the reasons I didn't need to be afraid, reminding myself that the anticipation of the unknown is almost always worse than the reality. Still, I was terrified. 

Once we got to the kayak rental/excursion shop things moved quickly, which was good because it gave me less time to think about what I was doing. Waivers were signed, wet suits were donned, and before I knew it we were walking to the beach. After a short training on paddling and how to get past the surf, I grabbed a kayak and drug it into the water, swearing every step of the way. Gillian lucked out and rode in a two-person kayak with Mike. I was on my own. Did I mention I'm terrified of the ocean and don't like being in it past water that's above my waist?
Suited up and ready to go.
I wish I could say I handled it all like a champ, but the truth is I was so scared I wanted to cry. Thankfully, my ego stopped me from bursting into tears, and instead I did the mature thing. Under my breath I swore like a sailor while imagining the many ways I'd like to torture Mike, Mr. Experienced Kayaker, for convincing me I could do this. How dare he! As I swore and plotted, I paddled furiously and very ungracefully past the surf, focused on keeping the bow straight ahead so I didn't get flipped over by a wave. 

After about 10-15 minutes, I relaxed. I'd made it past the worst part. I hadn't capsized, the sun was shining, I was on vacation in a beautiful setting, and in the distance there were dolphins playing in the water. My breathing slowed down and I very intentionally focused on enjoying the next couple of hours. Of course, there was the paddling part. That wasn't super fun. I never did completely enjoy that. 

Soon after my attitude adjustment, we spotted some sea lions in the distance. We paddled closer and stopped. The sea lions came closer too, and dove and surfaced right next to our kayaks, then underneath, popping up on the other side. What fun! 

After that we paddled further out so we could find a spot to sit and watch for whales. Unfortunately, we didn't see any. After waiting as long as we could, our guide told us it was time to head back. More paddling. It seemed like I'd never be done paddling! In reality, in only took about 15 minutes to make it back to shore from the spot a mile where we'd stopped. Only one more challenge left--getting past the surf again.
Amazingly, I made it, catching a wave and riding it into the shore without tipping over. Mike and Gillian weren't so lucky. Yards away from the beach Gillian decided she'd had it and tipped her body completely over to one side, throwing their kayak off balance and dumping them both into the cold water. 

So, there you have it. I faced my fear and lived to tell about it. I ended what was a very difficult year for me in a place of strength rather than fear and defeat. I conquered my own greatest enemy--me--and in the process reminded myself that I am strong, capable and when I need to be, fearless. 


  1. Congratulations! It does sound like it was fun. The paddling would probably have been my favorite part! :-)

  2. I love this: "they're called comfort zones for a reason."

  3. "You're a better man than I am, Gunga Din!"

    I feel as you do about water. I love it in a tub, up to my chin, but I go about to my knees in the ocean. Love seeing it, hearing it and wading in it. Cruising on top of it rocks. That is all.

    I really admire your courage and resolve!

  4. I too am so proud of you. You have done so many courageous, stepping out of your comfort zone things in the past few years. You started running. You went to Bangladesh. You went on this adventure and paddled your own boat. I guess I admire that part the most. After conquering your fears of water and going out into the sea to a place you feared, you did your own paddling. I admire any woman who can row her own boat! I say that with all seriousness.

    As your mother, I would have preferred having you safely watch the adventure from the shore. That would have kept ME in my comfort zone. As your mother, I am proud of you for not staying on shore. I am proud of you for not rocking the boat at a time when it was best to point bow straight in front of you and paddle to a place of serenity and beauty.

    You are amazing. Oh, and I love the photo of Gillian. That is one to be framed and treasured. She too has come a long ways. I remember her not wanting to ride the rides at Lagoon. Go Gillian!

  5. Congratulations! What a great way to start the new year...and a wonderful bonding experience with your daughter. She has a role model for strong, fearless womanhood.

  6. Good for you! Congratulations -- I fear (!)I am not so good at facing those fears. So, my admiration for you, which was always significant is all the more so! Three cheers -- what a way to start the new year!


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