Friday, 1 August 2014

Big Blue

   Its a jouney, not a destination.  That's what I keep reminding myself, every time I look at Lake Tahoe, or as some of my friends refer to Lake Tahoe as, Big Blue... really Big Blue!  As I write this, I'm looking out at the lake and I'm reflecting about my up coming circumnavigation of Big Blue and I'm thinking, "That's a huge lake"!  This is the 6th year I will Stand Up Paddle the 72 miles around the lake in one day, paddling all day and all night, and every year, my mind tells me that I can't do it; that I should take a short cut, take a nap, hide in the bushes, sleep at a friend's house, drink a cup of tea, anything other than to paddle the entire circumference of Big Blue in one day.  As I've said, this will be the 6th year to attempt the circumnavigation in one day and the previous years' successful experiences help calm the negative mental chatter.

   Every year its same the deal.  Look at the lake, feel overwhelmed.  But a funny thing happens when I actually put the board in the water and stand on it.  I feel the motion with the paddle and I relax and enjoy the moment.  I see the beauty of my surroundings and I realize that its an adventure!  Will I make it around the lake?.... Who knows and who cares!  I put the blade of the paddle into the water, pulling on the paddle, stroke after stroke, as I scrutinize my paddle technique.  I notice the texture of the water.  I see the shadow of my board against the bottom of the lake.  I see the moon, as a cloud moves past. I hear the lake birds and water lapping the shoreline, and I am catapulted instantly into the moment, where I have energy and I feel hopeful.  Inevitably, I will again start thinking about the finish, and gently I remind myself to stay in the moment, as I chuckle at my minds' coy ability to distract, again noticing the details of my surroundings, bringing myself back to the moment, and so it goes, 72 miles around Lake Tahoe.


The process I go through paddling around the lake is hardly different than other people's process that I speak to, as they may consider the transition to a compassionate, healthier, plant based diet, moving away from meat, dairy and eggs.  I have yet to meet one person who says that they support animal cruelty, indifferent to the intense confinement that animals experience on factory farms and the brutal conditions in slaughterhouses.  And when I explain how going vegan is a viable option, and choosing to eat plants instead of animals is a simple and effective alternative to the inherent cruelties of the meat industry, blah blah blah, all they can see in their mind's eye (with glazed over eyes) is Big Blue.  A large anonymous lake where they will toil, paddling in perpetuity, while eating grass clippings.  While only half of that image is accurate (if you're like me and you drink wheat grass juice), a life caring about others, the environment, and our health, is hardly a life of deprivation.  En el contrario!  But you will have a hard time telling that to a certain SUP paddler while he stands on the shore, looking at the enormity of the Lake Tahoe.  

   In other words, its a journey not a destination.  Go ahead, jump in the water!  Remove just one unhealthy food from your diet and replace it with a healthier plant based alternative.  Try it.  Experiment.  Have a Meatless Monday once a week.  Living vegan is a path of kindness, not a path of perfection.  You don't have to drink my green smoothies or wheat grass juice, or paddle around Lake Tahoe in one day, but to use the words of my college Psychology professor speaking about the nature of apathy, "Do something, anything".

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Another lap around the lake!

On August 10th, on the evening of the full moon and for the 6th consecutive year, I will embark on a solo, non-stop stand up paddle (SUP) around the entirety of Lake Tahoe in one day.  I will paddle all day and all night powered by a plant based diet and my committment to speak out for factory farmed animals with the Vegan 1 Day Project.

The Vegan 1 Day Project is a grass roots effort to encourage the public to adopt a vegan diet for at least one day out of the year, for health, the environment and the animals.  

Many people mistakenly think that committing to a vegan diet is restrictive and difficult, when in reality, a whole food plant based diet is healthy, compassionate and easy.  Striving to accomplish something very difficult by paddling alone, non-stop around Lake Tahoe in less than 24 hours, is an act of support for those wanting to make a positive change, even if just for one day.

I've been a lifelong surfer and an elite SUP paddle racer, competing in international competitions, but the one day paddle around Lake Tahoe is not a race.  It's a fun way of showing people that we can be strong AND compassionate while eating plants instead of animals.  I've adhered to a plant based diet for over 30 years and I've heard practically every false notion about how vegans are weak and somehow nutrient deficient.  

In fact, last year at an SUP race competition, while standing in the racers queue for the after race lunch, I asked the race organizer if there were any vegan options available.  The race organizer kindly announced that vegan, veggie wraps were available.  Some of the racers behind me overheard the exchange, and quipped, "you can't paddle fast on a veggie wrap"!  With an agreeable smile, I turned to ask what their time was in the race.  And as it turns out, they finished 3 minutes behind me, so I playfully suggested the veggie wrap to them for lunch.

Public interest in vegan foods has gained enormous momentum in recent years, but there still remains misinformation and perceived obstacles.  Paddling alone all day and night, 72 miles around Tahoe for the Vegan 1 Day Project is difficult, but pales in comparison to what animals experience on factory farms and in slaughterhouses; like chickens in battery cages or pigs in metal crates, which are crammed in so tight they can't turn around for most of their lives. 

 Humans can get all of the protein and nutrition needed in a whole food, plant based diet, and going vegan for even just one day has a positive effect on our consciousness, setting a powerful intention for better health and a more compassionate world.

It has been enormously rewarding to see that in the last several years, the Lake Tahoe paddle has grown in popularity and has prompted other groups of plant powered athletes to be a part of the Vegan 1 Day Project with their own endurance events, including long distance running and cycling to inspire others with their physical strength and determination.

To use the words of Martin Luther King Jr., "The arc of the moral universe is long, but bends towards justice".   And for me, the arc bends 72 miles around the circumference of Lake Tahoe, on a stand up paddle board.