Before the race started we had gathered in a circle to hear the safety rules and what the charity's focus is. We stood in a group in support of Ignite, an organization in NC started by a man who has a son with autism. He tells me later that after his son graduated from high school there weren’t any support services available, so he decided to start one. Miss North Carolina says a prayer of thanks and blessing and just as she finishes the sun peaks out for a moment to appreciate before going back into hiding behind the thick clouds.
A few minutes later, I brave the cold with a winter hat on nimbly getting on my board trying not to get my feet wet. I paddle out with the B team who seem anything but to me as I try to stay in the back of the group. Once the race begins I see the mistake I have made as I stare at the wake of their waves coming toward me. My only chance today is not coming in last and finishing as the waves rock me backwards. At one point I see that it might be easier to sit and paddle from here but as I crouch down the waves soak me as they pour on my board. I am concerned about hypothermia but the water seems warm enough. As I round the turn I see a older man in the water with a wet suit on. He has fallen in twice and there is a young guy on a board coaching him out of the water. At the end I congratulation him for staying with it and he smile and says, "I am not a quitter" and I am heartened by this.
As I pass the next turn my friend Sarah is facing me and gleefully reports that she has falling in. A feat of victory as this was a fear of hers that she has now overcome without incident. I find that even though I am near last to finish, I am enjoying watching the faster racers and just being out on the water finding the waves and wind is exhilarating. I reflect that I love this and take more joy in it than running. I finish and predictably the water starts to come to stillness as I do. The tough work over, I do a few tricks on my board before reluctantly leaving the water. The six-mile racers have yet to come in but the number one racer’s time isn’t much later than my two mile one when she does finish right behind me. (During awards it’s mention that she holds the national champion record.)
Much later the sun is out and we are dry and warm, seated in comfortable lounge chairs in the sand listening to a Hawaiian band (the theme of today’s event) watching the hula dancers. Sarah and I are relaxed after having a chair massage by a man whose mother is a chiropractor. I listen during my massage to his father explaining to my friend that his son (the masseuse) was born with cerebral palsy but I find no evidence in his expertly placed hands working magically on me. I playful ask if he wants to come home with me as he smiles and starts with the next person in line.
After the awards there is a live auction and I see a bike is being auctioned off. After the bidding opens the first bidder calls out and I think that I should check this bike out. "Going once, Going twice" I hear and to stall I add my own bid as surely I won’t be the last bidder. But I am…"sold!" Oh dear…I think. I have bought a bike that is too big for me. People clap as I smile nervously waving to them as I head back to my seat. Sarah laughs and says How are you going to get that home? We are riding in her car and she doesn’t have a bike rack.
After a delicious pig roast and pecan coated fish buffet lavished with all kinds of fruits, salads and rice dishes I head over to exam the bike once more and realize that indeed it is too big for me. The man who started the organization comes over to talk with me and tells me more about Ignite. His story about his son who has Autism and was lost after high school with no supports available gets me teary-eyed.
I ask him if there is a chance that I can trade in the bike for a smaller women’s version and he waves his hand like this is no problem. He ushers over the officiator and the donator of the bike. He tells him that he will buy the bike and she (pointing to me) can buy another from you. Like this isn’t a big deal at all. It seem more like a command than a question. The officiator looks flustered as he doesn’t sell many bikes just for the holidays which are long over. He might have a women’s bike but he isn’t sure. Again it isn’t a problem. The man with the son with Autism says as he tells his wife who has just joined us that he is going to buy the bike. She at first looks puzzled but then stares at the bike and says "well I will need to get one too then."
And it all seems settled as we depart but the man who owns the shop doesn't really seem that happy about all this. Maybe my new next adventure might be on a bike, who knows! But first I have to help rectify this situation with the man who donated the bike.
To learn more about Ignite: https://www.autismsociety-nc.org/ignite/