I have tried calming my chi with yogis. I carry a yoga mat in my car. I have learned how to sit motionless for hours, and I even have an app on my Kindle that guides me through calming meditational scenes.
But nothing has come close to the peace I found floating on an inflatable lime green paddleboard.
It came riding over the glassy still waters of Roosevelt Lake on a full moon night, not a fishing boat in sight, the air velvety warm and my only companions the bass jumping for bugs and a rising gold moon.
I felt so comfortable, I even put down my paddle, which also doubled as my “oh no, I am going to fall” balance stick and lay on the cool top of the board, letting my legs dangle in the water and the breeze carry me freely.
The only anxiety I had centered on if Luna would make her appearance before it got too dark to find shore. I was counting on her reflection to serve as a trail.
Although we had driven to the lake to watch the moon explicitly, I soon found myself enjoying the ride in the darkness all the same.
I did not have to deploy any of the breathing techniques I had learned, I did not have to worry if I was doing “it” right. With the water cradling me, a planetarium show above, I melted away.
Only the nibble of some fish lips on my big toe brought me back.
My paddleboarding guru, Jimmy Carson, owner of Jimmy’s Stand-up Paddleboarding — or SUP, as it is known, said that meditative calm is what drives him nearly every day after work to make the hour-long drive to some body of water in Rim Country and paddle away the day’s troubles.
When I met Carson, just a mere 12 hours earlier in my cubicle at work, however, he did not strike me as the calmest person.
With smile lines etched in his face, a wild glow in his eyes and a garrulous nature, he came off more as a motivational speaker with a great tan. While I was on board almost immediately for a paddleboarding excursion, it would take all of Carson’s persuasion skills to get my co-workers to relent. Jimmy had tried unsuccessfully for months, no less, to get my editor to try it. I guess trusting a 10-foot-long nylon rig to carry your weight and your jitters is not as enticing for some.
After listing to Carson, 55, pitch the wonders of the sport — its low impact, you get a good workout, you can go places boats cannot access — his clear passion sold everyone.
“I can’t even tell you in words,” he said. “Your mind will go into a different world. You’ll forget your work, everything, and if you don’t forget, you fall in the water.”
Claims like these seemed promising, especially coming from Carson, a proverbial handyman around town.
Anyone with the patience to fix a leaky faucet I figured is the most likely to successfully teach me how to stand up on a paddleboard.
First, Carson said it is important to learn how to get on and off the board without getting your feet wet.
“You are never going to touch the water. We will go from the board to the ground, the ground to the board and can do the whole lake and you will never touch water.”
That way you can ride anytime of the year. Alice, Carson’s fiancée, I learned had figured out how to keep her $200 Ugg boots dry during their chillier outings in February.
For everyone else, it means you do not have to wear a bathing suit to try out the sport.
This last fact sold my other co-worker, Michele, on the idea.
After getting our feet wet, or rather dry, with the basics, we were off to explore.
Unfortunately, Michele soon became only the second person to fall off a board since Carson started the business in March.
It all happened randomly (starting the business, not Michele’s fall. That happened when she ran ashore).
After watching paddleboarders on television, a friend of Carson’s decided to buy a board.
“We went to Apache Lake and tried it and we have never stopped since then,” he said. “I started it in May last year and now I have more than 800 hours on the board.”
A native of Peru, Carson said he has tried nearly every water sport, but found paddleboarding offers something different.
“It is very similar to kayaking,” he said. “We used to be kayakers, but once we tried this, no more. The difference is kayaks are heavy and you have to sit the whole time.”
Carson started the paddleboarding business not because he had some grand plan, but because people kept asking him if they could try it.
In Arizona, you do not see many paddleboarders. The sport has been widely popular in coastal communities. You cannot visit a Hawaiian cove without spotting a few paddleboarders of all ages and skill levels. Arizonans, however, have largely been loyal to boats.
Carson’s custom trailer, which holds eight paddleboards behind his Volvo, stands out in a crowded parking lot of fishing boat trailers.
Curious glances, however, precede free ride inquiries.
“I had six to eight people asking me a day and so I thought, ‘Hey, I am going to start a business.’”
Entrepreneurial jumps like this have paid off for Carson before.
In the 1980s, he brought a paddle ball game from Peru to the shores of San Diego. While playing the game with friends, a crowd would always grow and people would ask where they could buy the paddles.
Eventually, Carson figured out no one else was making the boards, and so he started constructing them. The business grew and, years later, he closed it to start his repair service.
When Carson needed a break or even a good workout from work, paddleboarding offered the escape.
Because the sport is easy to pick up, riders are quickly paddling sitting down, kneeling or even sitting in a chair.
Carson says he even does sit-ups and pushups while on the board. There is even paddleboarding yoga.
“It is great because the concentration is even more on the board,” he said. “You can do yoga, fish, take photos, have lunch or take a nap while floating on the board. You can also go ashore anywhere you want and rest, have a picnic or explore the shoreline.”
Because Carson can go anywhere with at least six inches of water, he often surprises the wildlife.
“I scare a lot of bass. They are sunning themselves near the shore and I scare them and they scare me.”
Zoning out is easy when you realize how stable the board is, he said.
“When I go on the board, it is just complete forget the world and enjoy.”
For a man who has canoed the Amazon River, hiked in the jungle and swum with piranha, his favorite activity is also now the easiest.
“Out of my whole life, for as how much I have been around water, and I have a house on the beach in Mexico, I was raised in Peru, all my friends are surfers, and until last year, I have not enjoyed water in my life as much as I do now.”
Back on Roosevelt Lake, just as I thought about turning back to shore, a thin, brilliant line rose from behind Black Mesa, setting a fire in the sky.
Yards away I heard “ohs” and “ahs” from my fellow paddleboarding coworkers, but paid no mind, soaking in the moment of the moon.
Learn more about SUP
For more information or to reserve a board, call (928) 474-6482.
Carson offers first-time lessons starting at $30 per person for two-hours; all day board rentals for $40 and tours of area lakes. A tour of Willow Springs or Woods Canyon Lake runs $55 and tours of Roosevelt, Apache or Blue Ridge Lake start at $75.
Carson will soon be teaming up with Desert Splash Seaplane Adventures to offer paddleboarding lessons on Roosevelt Lake. Desert Splash currently runs airplane tours of out of Scottsdale that include flying over the Apache Trail and landing an amphibious seaplane at the lake near Haystack Island.
The owners of the air tour business ran into Carson by chance one afternoon after both groups landed at the island at nearly the same time.
Carson offered to let Desert Splash passengers try their hand on the boards and a new business venture was born.