The sky’s the limit! Studies show that new experiences can lead to unexpected heights of health and happiness. Rebecca Field Jager ticks off her let’s-do-this list.
When I first decided to take up the sport of kiteboarding (a.k.a. kitesurfing), I envisioned myself skimming across the water svelte in a wetsuit (I am always well-toned in my imaginings), poised on a board and tethered to an enormous, brilliantly coloured kite. The mere sight of my athletic prowess would attract the attention of beach-goers, among them, Samantha and Trevor, my kids. The two, both now in their late 20s, would marvel at what a cool mom I am, just as they did when they were little and, shortly after they swapped their skis for snowboards, I followed suit.
As a young mother, whenever possible, I always tried to do the things they did so I could relate first-hand to their experiences. However, as the kids got older—or perhaps as I did—I fell behind on keeping up. Both became avid sailors, for example, and while I always cheer on their efforts and have had a few tries at the tiller, I can never really join in the conversation. And so, last year, when the first whispers of kiteboarding were uttered, I decided to get ahead of the game and take lessons.
According to Dr. Christine Beck, a Charlottetown-based psychologist, there is some truth to the adage that a family that plays together stays together.
“Back in the day, families were connected by shared activities. If you grew up on a farm, it was likely you became a farmer or at least experienced and understood a farmer’s life,” she says. “Today, family members usually go their separate ways so the notion of familiarizing oneself and experiencing things other family members are involved in can provide a significant connection.”
Yet another benefit, she adds, is the increased connectivity in your brain.
As it turns out, kiteboarding is physically far more challenging than I’d first thought. I made the mistake of likening it to waterskiing wherein balance, agility and strength are key, but you certainly don’t have to know how to drive a boat. With kiteboarding, however, your sole source of power is the kite, so learning how to rig, launch and control it is critical.
My handful of lessons, which took place on the shores of Lake Ontario, then while on a trip to Prince Edward Island and, most recently, as part of a vacation in the Dominican Republic, revolved around learning kite-flying skills, beginning with a two-metre trainer and evolving to a 13-metre beast. Frustrated that I still hadn’t progressed to actually hopping on a board and getting out onto the water, I asked Gerhard Marsch, 51, the owner of ukiteboard, a school based in Keswick, Ont., if perhaps I was, at 53—cringe—a tad too old for this. Marsch, having taught students ranging in age from 12 to 67, assured me that there was hope.
“Older students are more cautious at first, but once they gain confidence with the kite, they perform as well as anyone.”
If you’ve ever seen me teetering along on a bicycle, you’ll understand why my friends were shocked when I told them late last summer that I’d signed up for a motorcycle course. Questions ranged from “Are you suffering a mid-life crisis?” to “Geez, are you trying to get yourself killed?” I assured them the course instills safety as its biggest priority, and I’m myriad lessons away from ever hitting the open road—but still people want to know why.
The truth? I wanted to face my fear of riding a powerful machine and, yes, the biker chick ideal appeals to me, but mostly I was drawn to the social aspect of the sport. Here’s the thing: our family cottage is situated on Lakeshore Road on Lake Erie, which happens to be a well-travelled route for motorcyclists. From my deck, I watch them whiz by in packs, and every time I make a milk run into town, I see them gathered around laughing and chatting, soaking up the sunshine. I thought it’d be nice to be part of something like that.
Sharron St. Croix, 49, the executive director at Rider Training Institute in Toronto, the school at which I took the course, says that there are two types of boomers signing up—those who used to ride but traded in their motorcycles for mortgages and minivans and now want to return to the sport, and those who have never ridden but have always longed to do so. For both, the social side of the ride is a huge attraction.
“There are so many clubs and organizations across Canada as well as meet-ups, events, rallies and rides. Even if you’re the only person in your circle who rides a motorcycle, it doesn’t matter – you can find people from all walks of life who perhaps share nothing in common with you other than the love of the sport.”
You can also find groups of like-minded folks to join. A simple Google search calls up countless clubs drawn together by shared interests, religions and causes, examples of which include Soldiers for Jesus; WindSisters, a women-only club; and BADD (Bikers Against Drunk Driving). Whether you’re part of a group or not, rides for charity abound.
As a writer, I like to think my job keeps me sharp but, as Beck points out, connections are more strongly created when doing something novel. And with the massive changes that continue to take place in the world of journalism these days, for this traditional freelance wordsmith, trying something new is more than a lark, it’s mandatory.
My intellectual endeavour began then with an honest assessment of my website and the social media accounts I’ve held for the past several years. They’re okay, I was told by a professional consultant, but you clearly view them as a sidekick to your business. Ouch. But, alas, fair enough. And so, I hired the services of Creative Solutions Consulting, a Toronto-based boutique digital marketing company to build and help me launch and market a new website.
The result, becjager.com, houses my published work as well as stories that won’t necessarily see the light of day in print. Initially, my eyes glazed over as I read through my new to-do list—manage the new content management system as well as a social management system that supports the integration of social networking services; aggressively grow my professional online networks; seek out and develop even more strategic partnerships…
But I just want to write stories, I mentally whined.
Then again, I want to eat.