One of the things I have had to come to terms with since I started stand up paddle boarding is my love/hate relationship with wetsuits.
The LOVE part is easy. My winter wetsuit is the only thing between my peaches and cream and the cold Benguela current, which churns it’s way up from Antarctica without any deflection, straight into Cape Town.
The HATE part is tricky.While it’s also fruity, it’s less about peaches than it is about pears.
The pear of which I speak is not nestled in the fruit bowl. Nope. It’s lurking at my rear end. It’s the actual shape of my derriere.
A winter wetsuit is fine. My Roxy Syncro and I are in a long term relationship. Winter suits are often black (read: slimming) and have sections of neoprene cut and stitched in ass-flattering ways. They are 4/3 mm thick (which is heaps thicker than your average Spanx and twice as tight) so you are, essentially, All Good.
The only glitch with a winter suit is The Girls. You need to lift them before you zip them (or invest in a nice supportive Wonder-Bikini. These Lovely Bikini Tops made by Island Style will do the trick) Otherwise The Girls are squashed super flat & you look like a Russian weightlifter and where’s the fun in that?
The main wetsuit problem arrives in summer, along with the warmer water. All the gorgeous creatures of the ocean seem to slip into spring suits. And you are left to either sweat it out in your 4/3 SuperSpanx OR freeze like a kook in your bather OR sque-e-eze into a spring suit yourself.
Now, spring suits come in a variety of cuts, ranging from:
Type 1: Um Seriously?
Type 2: Are You Mad? I Could Never Wear That
to finally, the utterly frightening
Type 3: Maybe I Should Just Curl Up and Die While I Still Have Dignity?
When you are north of 35 or 40 it’s very hard to keep your bum from slipping south of your pubic bone. It’s also very hard to actually pay for a garment out of which your worst assets are likely to sag.
The lovelies at Xpressions on the Beach were kind and tactful. (As they should be. If they ever want to sell those things.) I tried on a Mystic with the least adventurous Um Seriously cut. I balked at the image in the mirror and left.
But after a few sweaty sessions in my winter suit, I went back.
‘Your legs will firm up the more you sup,’ assured one saleslady.
‘Your legs will get tanned and you will feel less self conscious,’ said another.
No one dared actually mention my bum. So I caved. I must say it felt better that I got the suit on sale.
And then an amazing thing happened.
The first time I wore it, I kept tugging on the legs as I slunk to the waterline. But the next time, I just threw it on, picked up my sup and strode on down. You know why?
The truth is that my legs are wobbly. (From Fear as well as Fat.) My thighs jiggle. My bottom is no peach and there’s a fair amount of cellulite around. And sometimes when I get taken out by a big wave, I end up with a minimalist Type 3 suit and have to apply myself to reverting the material back to a more modest Type 1.
But I put a spring suit on anyway, as do many other women of various ages, shapes and sizes who I hadn’t noticed before (They were probably catching all the waves while I was fretting.) We do so because, not only are they a little stylish, but they are comfortable and functional, and we wear them with love, not hate.
Sometimes our worst, most unfair and most critical judge, is ourselves. We tell ourselves we are too fat, too thin, too wobbly, too old, too post-partum, too pale etc, to wear something. It may not be a wetsuit. It may be a bikini, it may be a dress, a pair of shorts or even a plain old pair of jeans.
But what stand up paddling in a booty cut spring suit has shown me is that joy in life is not always connected to what you wear and how you look. It is, however, always connected to what you experience. I only worried whether my bum looked big when I was standing still in the change room. But I didn’t even think about it when I went out and did what I love in the water.
In the water I think more about whether that big wave at the back will end up on my head. I wonder if I will make it to the shoulder or if I paddle straight I’ll make it over? If I turn now and paddle hard, will I catch it? Is it my wave or is it the surfer next to me? Should I move my back foot over the fins or shift it closer to the rail? Was that a seal I just saw or a piece of kelp? Oh my, did the shark siren just go off?
The state of my derriere has taken a back seat because nothing else matters when you are riding a wave.
Whatever it is that YOU do that makes you happy, go and do it.Whether you choose surfing, stand up paddle boarding, crochet or walking your dog. Whatever it is you do? Go and do it. Wear whatever you like that makes you feel stylish, yet is comfortable and functional. It doesn’t matter if your bum looks big in it. Because no one, certainly not your inner judge, can take that feeling from you, the feeling that eclipses all your insecurities. It can’t take away the excitement, the feeling of accomplishment, and definitely not the feeling of sheer joy that life’s experiences can throw at you if you give them half a chance.
Peace, love and wetsuits, darlings…