Stand Up Paddling Amongst Giants
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I can't handle cold water at the best of times; I've been known to shiver after a summertime dip in the Mediterranean.
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<p class="p1"><span class="s1">So looking out at endless fog and icebergs was sending tremors&nbsp;down my spine, even from the safety of the shore.</span></p>

<p class="p1"><span class="s1">I was about to experience <a href="http://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/paddleboarding.html" target="_blank">stand up paddle boarding</a> (SUP) for the first time, and the pictures I'd seen of bronzed beach bodies, azure seas and tropical climes, seemed a world away. This was Alaska's Kenai Fjords National Park, where the steely northern Pacific meets the half-frozen land. Separated from the sea by a spit of glacial deposit is a five-mile-long lagoon into which the mighty Bear Glacier calves and crumbles, giving birth to gigantic icebergs which float around the still waters until they melt away.</span></p>

<p class="p1">I wriggled into my&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gore-tex.com/product/kokatat-gore-tex-front-entry-dry-suit--relief-zipper/1415317992343/" target="_blank">GORE-TEX Pro dry suit</a> and prepared myself for a completely new, albeit exciting excursion. As I pushed away from shore&nbsp;on what amounts to an inflatable raft, I wasn't filled with confidence.&nbsp;<span class="diff-html-added" id="added-diff-2">This </span>was the wildest place I'd ever seen<span class="diff-html-added" id="added-diff-3">, complete with freezing waters, warehouse-sized icebergs, and an impenetrable bank of low cloud hanging ominously overhead—not exactly ideal conditions to learn a new sport</span>. Miles from the town of Seward—my base for this trip—and with no living thing in sight save a lone bald eagle perched on a berg, the dangers seemed very real and the consequences, dire.</p>

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<p class="p1"><span class="s1">I'd arrived with a small group from Liquid Adventures, who provided the board gear and the guiding. Though none of us had SUP'ed before,&nbsp;<span class="diff-html-added" id="added-diff-9">in general we found the paddling </span>to be easy, helped <span class="diff-html-added" id="added-diff-10">as we were </span>by the glassy-still waters of the lagoon and the improbable stability of the board. I was on my feet within minutes, and my fear of falling into the water disappeared soon after.</span></p>

<p class="p1"><span class="s1">The vulnerability I felt was humbling,&nbsp;<span class="diff-html-added" id="added-diff-11">but I soon lost that edge of panic</span>. The pace of the paddle board made it a vehicle sympathetic to its surroundings, which in turn&nbsp;made for a very contemplative way to experience this environment. Surfer Tom Blake described the outdoors as our "Church of the Open Sky" and this was quickly turning into a divine&nbsp;experience.</span></p>

<blockquote class="left">
<p class="p1">Surfer Tom Blake described the outdoors as our 'Church of the Open Sky' and this was quickly turning into a divine&nbsp;experience."</p>
</blockquote>

<p class="p1"><span class="s1">I lost myself in the wonder of the experience, marveling at&nbsp;the scale of the icebergs and the intricacy of their shape. With each passing stroke&nbsp;of my paddle, the intimidation factor gave way to hypnotic delight. I felt cosseted by the low cloud, and comforted by being cut off from everything outside my immediate surroundings. I simply let the serenity of it all wash over me.</span></p>

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<p class="p1"><span class="s1"><span class="diff-html-added" id="added-diff-14">Our entire </span>group passed within 10 meters of the aforementioned b<span class="diff-html-removed" id="removed-diff-15">ald eagle</span>, and he barely gave us a second glance. I'd become a part of the environment, connected to it, leaving no trace. And as if I truly belonged there, I hadn't even felt the cold.</span></p>
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