The Calm At The End of the Storm

The Calm At The End of the Storm

This past weekend, six paddlers got together un Panama City, Florida to paddle 32 miles to raise awareness and money for kids with Autism.  This is the third year that we do this, and every year the paddle is challenging.  This year was no different.  The reason that it is challenging is that it is an out and back course.  Most races of that distance, use tides, currents, and the wind in there favor.  The Molokai to Oahu race is 32 ocean miles, but you are surfing on waves the whole way and you have the wind mostly at your back, creating a pushing effect.  The Panama City race has wind, waves, and takes you from bay water to ocean water and back; the wind that is at your back one way will be in your face when you reverse directions at the halfway point.  In three years running, the course has never been vanquished by all individuals who have started the race.  This year was no exception.

The Reverse and Lightening

Nothing can shorten your race, and your life, as much as lightening.  This year, we had to pull paddlers after 6 miles and place them on a “mother ship” for safety, and the call was made to attempt to beat the thunderstorm line by running everyone to the halfway point.  The wind was in our faces for the entire 6 mile beginnings stage, and we felt that by placing the paddlers at the halfway point, we would be able to go downwind at a fast pace and beat the weather.   Initially, our downwind leg began without drama, with the exception of the 6 foot runners that we blowing in from the Gulf.  What happened after about half an hour of paddling gave us all a reason to smile and laugh, and realize why we were out here in the first place.  It took 10 minutes for the wind to completely reverse direction, and now the wind was in our face again, and it was a strong wind.  In some cases, paddlers that stopped paddling would be blown backwards instead of forward, which is not a good situation when you are trying to finish a race.  

The Silver Lining

The paddlers in my boat were veterans of the race, and they all commented that every year, no matter which date we choose or month, the conditions are always challenging, which brought us all to why we do this race in the first place.  The race is about raising awareness for Autism, April is Autism awareness month, and inevitably parents with children with Autism ask the question, why?  For us, the challenge of the race directly translates into the challenges that take place when raising a child with Autism.  The race further exemplifies this because it takes a team of individuals to finish a race of this magnitude, just as it takes a team of individuals to raise a child with autism.  The parallels are clear.  But wait, there is more.  Every year we have done the race, right before the end, the conditions get better.  This divine intervention is not a coincidence, brought to my attention this year by another veteran paddler who has done this race three years in a row.  The sign is this: at the end of the hard work, trials and tribulations, failures and challenges, exists a silver lining where we accept the current situation as perfect in its own way.  No matter how hard you think you have it, if you work together with others and devote yourself to something that is more than yourself, you will succeed and be happy.  No matter what happens along the way.   


This week, think of something that is challenging to you.  How do you overcome this challenge?  Do you hesitate to ask for help?  If so, why?  Helping others is a part of who we are as human beings.  Let others help you and help others.  That is the key to happiness and success.  One of the biggest takeaways from this Paddle Race for Autism is that we all should help each other to better both the world around us and ourselves.  Go out of your way to help others this week, but more importantly, allow others to help you as well.  Helping is a two way street. 

“Lean into it!”

Dr. Ed Naggiar