52 Exercises: #11 Stand Up Paddle-Boarding (and a Confession About Depression)

52 Exercises: Stand Up Paddleboarding and talking about depression

Still aching from Cage Fitness but feeling low I decide to press on with my 52 Exercises quest.

When I started this quest I said it was to challenge myself and have more fun. I said I wanted to stop feeling boring and bored. I talked about how I wanted to fight ageing by challenging myself.

That’s all true but it’s not the whole truth.

The truth is I’ve been using exercise to prevent depression since I was first diagnosed with it ten years ago. Regular exercise usually works a treat but something’s gone wrong recently and I can feel depression on my heels. It seems to be closing in on me slowly so I’m doing more exercise than ever before to try to beat depression without going back on anti-depressants.

So I lied by omission about why I started the 52 Exercises quest because, although I’ve written about my depression before, it’s not the kind of upbeat topic I like to talk about and I want to protect all of us from painful emotions.

But the truth is exercise is a panacea, a balm, the one thing that’s helped me cope with depression in the past and right now I’m holding on to it for dear life.

Today I want to go Outrigger Canoeing but it starts at 5.15am. Even though I get up at 4.45am and leave the house in the dark to pick up my friend Jane, I underestimate how long it will take us to get there and when we arrive the canoes have already left. It’s raining as we watch walk onto the jetty and watch the Outrigger women paddle off down the river.

I was hoping to cross the bar of the Noosa River with them and paddle out into the open sea. I’m craving the excitement of a new adventure, the element of danger and unpredictability but it’s not going to happen today.

Still all is not lost. Jane has two stand up paddle boards so we take those down to the canals.  The water is dark brown after weeks of rain and smells stagnant. The clear blue water tourists flock to Noosa for has gone but we are here.

We paddle along slowly and I start to relax. Jane gives me tips, telling me to keep my top arm straight, dig the paddle in close to the nose of the board and pull it out when it gets level with my body. I’m so busy trying to improve my stroke I don’t hear a speed boat coming by and almost fall off when the wake hits me.

We fall into a gentle rhythm and start to chat, feeling freer out here on the  open water I tell Jane that last month I looked into becoming a paramedic. I love web design and copywriting but I also want an exciting job. I want to help people who urgently need it. Paramedics get to drive the ambulance, zooming through the traffic with lights flashing to save lives at road traffic accidents. They fix people up then dump them at the hospital leaving someone else to do the hard work.

I want to be a hero. I want to help people and save lives but not deal with them for six months recuperation. I want to give them blood and recalibrate their hearts but not find out why they were drink-driving or eating their way to a heart attack in the first place.

I suppose I’m looking for escape, for a quick fix to my depression because I don’t want to do the long hard work I had to do last time to fully recover and stay happy.

We paddle along slowly, talking and watching nature. A fish skims the surface and a cormorant swims by.

Beauty is all around us but Jane’s got problems too. She’s not sure if she and her husband are separating or not but she’s ready for whatever happens. Either they’ve hit rock bottom and can mend their relationship or this is the end of the line and she can move on to the next great thing.

It makes me remember being asked to contribute my ideas to an article in the local newspaper about why Noosa has an even higher divorce rate than the rest of Australia. Another woman proposed it was because the cost of living and housing is high which causes financial stress and marital breakdown. I disagreed, secretly thinking a high cost of living would give people more of a reason for staying married.

My theory was that Noosa is largely a community of expats like Waiheke Island and Costa Rica where I lived before, all seemingly idyllic places that people move to when their marriage is in trouble. People think they can fix their relationship by moving somewhere new but a bad relationship is just as painful even when you live in a tropical paradise.

So often we think we can fix things by moving somewhere new but life still has pain even when you live in a beautiful place.

We paddle for an hour then sit on the bank and talk some more.

Jane talks about how all our problems are a sign that there is something deeply wrong in our society. I don’t want to think about that because sometimes it feels like the whole world is in pain. Some are hungry, some struggling with personal issues, others battling ill-health.

Sometimes it feels like everyone is fighting depression, trying to meditate and learning how to be happy. I don’t understand why we need help with something that should come naturally.

I know I’m too sensitive and shouldn’t think about all that stuff right now. When I went to see a therapist for depression years ago she said my sensitivity switch was on high and that things that normally wouldn’t affect me were making me emotional because I was over-sensitive.

I feel sad but I can’t let myself cry for the same reason I don’t drink right now. If I do I might never be able to stop.

My arms ache even more after the stand up paddle-boarding but the pains in my body are a welcome distraction from the pain in my heart.

It’s not raining now but the water is still murky brown. It will take a while to settle but I know one day it will be clear and blue again.

How do you get through dark days? 

Stand Up Paddle-Boarding Exercise Review

Cost: $0 – I borrowed a board and have my own at home but you can hire a stand up paddle board for about $20 an hour. The photo here was taken four years ago when we first bought our board for around $800.

Time Exercising: 60 minutes.

Average Heart Rate: 91 bpm (beats per minute).

Peak Heart Rate: 121 bpm.

Calories Burned: 146 calories.

Fun Factor: 5/10

Fear Factor: 6/10

Post-exercise Glow: 4/10.

Check out more of the 52 Exercise quest here .

Thank You for Reading

If you’re enjoying Get In the Hot Spot and 52 Exercises please take a moment to share this post on Facebook, Twitter, by email or any way you please. You can use the handy buttons below. I really appreciate that. Thank you.

Get the weekly newsletter – If you’d like email updates from Get In the Hot Spot click here to subscribe now. You won’t get an email every time I update the blog but I’ll email you weekly with the best stories.

Let’s stay in touch – I’d love if you circle me on Google+. Thank you.

Share This Story, Choose Your Platform!


  1. Seana Smith March 17, 2013 at 6:24 pm - Reply

    Hello darling Annabel, so glad that we’ll see you soon and can chat like you did in this story, but not on a paddle board. I think that ocean swimming would be great for you, it is adventurous, I loved being scared and terrified at times, when battling to get through the surf. Relieved to be rescued by hunky life guards at times too.

    Before I had children I was a bold scuba diver, went everywhere and did everything, from chilly Scotland to Zanzibar. I gave it a go off Karachi too and then motherhood beat me. Being adventurous is the very opposite to the feelings of being CRUSHED alive which are my particular burden.

    Much to discuss… and did I say to you that I’ve stopped drinking completely? I think for the same reasons… could see the writing on the wall.

    • Annabel Candy March 18, 2013 at 10:22 am - Reply

      Hi Seana,

      I would like to do an Ocean swim with you – it will terrify me – all those sharks!!

      I love what you say here: Being adventurous is the very opposite to the feelings of being CRUSHED alive which are my particular burden.

      That’s what I’m looking for in my travels and exercises and I think we can find the joy of being alive there :)

  2. Johanna March 17, 2013 at 6:51 pm - Reply

    Ahh, so feel your pain and wish I could wave a magic wand and make it all better for you :) But there is always hope and there are always good things happening, and maybe you and I need to have a “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” chat one of these days soon :) I’m glad you are keeping up the exercise regime, and yes, I also know that when I don’t exercise I can feel pretty ‘mis’ and when I’m not busy then the demons are apt to strike too.

  3. Julie Hyndman March 18, 2013 at 10:41 am - Reply

    Hi Annabel, wow, thank you for your brave honesty!!!! You are an inspiration, to fight this with exercise and not wanting to back to the medication!!!!

    Yes, I have dark days too, luckily not enough to be on medication though, but I can sure read the label some days!!!!
    Now Husband is away working (FIFO) I really need to be in front of the darkness so it doesn’t overwhelm- some days I relax and let it be, and it seems to lift. But as i said I’m lucky …
    Staying in a focused routine helps, having a to do list helps, having children who keep you going has been fantastic too!!
    Thanks again Annabel for your openness! Bless you!!!

    • Annabel Candy March 18, 2013 at 10:47 am - Reply

      Thank you Julie – there are so many Fly in Fly Out dads and families around the Sunshine Coast. That’s tough on all if you. Stay strong :)

  4. Rodney Bukuya March 18, 2013 at 5:06 pm - Reply

    hey Annabel,

    Thanks for sharing. I’m glad that, as a society, we’re talking about depression and mental health more. Some days I feel like I’m part of somebody’s dirty little secret.

    If I’ve learned anything, it’s that the more we run from our black dog, the more he will chase us. I learned to acknowledge when he was back in my life. On those days, I slow down, I excercise, I eat only healthy things and I spend time contemplating the great things I’ve done in my life.

    One day, I will open my black dog gym and we’ll have our own damn support network.

    50 Australian suicides each week is higher than skin cancer and the road toll and yet nobody wants to know our issues.



    • Annabel Candy March 18, 2013 at 6:46 pm - Reply

      Hi Rodney,

      Great to see you here and thank you for sharing your experiences. That statistic is terrible to read but the gym sounds fantastic :)

  5. Kama March 21, 2013 at 5:12 pm - Reply

    I can relate to your post as someone who used to suffer from depression. Exercise is indeed a great way to help us cope. So wonderful that you can write so openly about depression as this will benefit so many people. I do hope you find the solution for you and if you ever want to talk about how I conquered my depression let me know x

    • Annabel Candy March 21, 2013 at 10:31 pm - Reply

      Hi Kama,

      Thank you so much, of course I want to,know your story and solutions :)

  6. Nikki@WonderfullyWomen March 21, 2013 at 6:57 pm - Reply

    Awesome post, I can feel your pain, I know what it’s like to have it snapping at your heals. Had one of those feeling sorry for myself day’s yesterday. Keep moving, it’s a great plan and trying all those awesome things sounds cool. One of my favourite tricks when I am in the ‘wrong’ place is to put a couple of drops of lemongrass essential oil onto a cotton wool ball and stick in in my bra, close to my heart, really helps to lift the grey clouds. :)

    • Annabel Candy March 21, 2013 at 10:32 pm - Reply

      Hi Nikki,

      What a beautiful tip. Scents can be so uplifting, I will try that.

  7. Ali Manning March 24, 2013 at 5:40 am - Reply

    Thank you for having the courage to share your struggles in this post – it was really moving!

  8. Aisha from Expatlog March 24, 2013 at 1:32 pm - Reply

    This was an incredible post Annabel, both in it’s raw confessional quality and it’s wisdom. You’re less lost than you think you are, that much is certain. I have every confidence you’ll continue to explore new terrain in your push for balance and contentment – you’re not one to throw in the towel. Give yourself some love and remember, you’re an inspiration to many.

    • Annabel Candy March 24, 2013 at 7:16 pm - Reply

      Hi Aisha,

      I definitely won’t be hanging in the towel and thank you so much for your loving thoughts :)

  9. Cate March 24, 2013 at 5:45 pm - Reply

    Hi Annabel,
    love you
    C xxx
    ps you are so much braver than me… the ocean is so beautiful to look and listen to, but so scary to be in…

    • Annabel Candy March 24, 2013 at 7:17 pm - Reply

      Hi Cate,

      Oh, I’m sure we can help you overcome that fear :)

  10. Barbara March 25, 2013 at 1:07 am - Reply

    You are truly an inspiration on many levels Annabel. I remember a quote that resonates with me: If you can’t cry with your whole heart, you can’t laugh with your whole heart.

    I find I can’t cry when I need to the most. Not sure why. Now, watch a sad movie and bawl like a baby, but not when I need to. I have taken anti-depressants in the past when needed. There’s no shame in that. Sometimes we put too much pressure on ourselves thinking ‘I should be strong enough to get through this without meds’, when the truth is you can’t clear your head enough to work through without them. Just something to think about.
    Love you!

  11. Fran June 22, 2013 at 9:10 am - Reply

    Hi Annabel,

    Yours is one of the few blogs I still subscribe to by email, probably because of your honesty & down-to-earth vibe. I’ve never commented, but how could I not on a post like this! I empathise, people I’m closest to have gone through depression and it’s been the worst time in MY life, let alone theirs.

    Living more in your senses, in your body and being more aware of the present moment is valuable. Yoga, conscious exercise, brings you into your body & into the now. Your idea of exercise is ace.

    Keep on expressing, get out of your head and into your body & silly-dance to loud music.

    Just wanted to send you some love and light xxx :)

Leave A Comment