Glass Half Full: The power of the paddle |

Glass Half Full: The power of the paddle

You can find them at the lake any calm morning: The Ladies Who Paddle. They hoist their stand up paddle boards and kayaks from the tops of their cars and trundle them down to the shore.

There, they pop on board and glide silently into the early morning sun. They seem to move effortlessly through the water, stroking confidently and purposefully, evidencing the many years and miles of experience under their swimsuits.

The Ladies Who Paddle recognize no age or size restraints. Witness Dolly Lee, turning a very young 82 later this summer, who actually adds weights to her board to provide more stability for her slender frame.

Dolly’s only concession to her advancing years is a slightly lighter and shorter board, which is easier for her to transport than the longer, more competitive models. Once on the water, Dolly could handle anything.

She paddles every morning, unless the wind has whipped up waves not worth the effort. Whether she sets out alone or, as is frequently the case, is accompanied by women friends, Dolly “owns” Lake Tahoe in ways we should all admire and emulate. I want to be like Dolly when I grow up.

I purchased my first paddle board at a Lake Tahoe School auction four years ago. I had never tried the sport, but a colleague convinced me it was easy, and we joined forces to make the purchase.

He was right: It’s reasonably straightforward and painless to master the basics of paddling. One simply must accept that getting wet is a given for awhile. Personally, I avoid the late morning and afternoon hours, when wind and boats disturb the calm.

Paddling could be considered a metaphor for life, as I see it. Women who have raised families and run businesses recognize that the seeming morning calm is never completely under our control — even when we are selective about the hours and weather we choose.

Just the other day a friend and I set out early on a Perfect Morning. Nary another paddler or boat was in sight as we made our way down to Burnt Cedar Beach and back. Somewhere, however, out of sight and earshot, a large boat stirred the waters.

Who-knows-how-long-later, the wake from that boat snuck up on us and certainly changed the lakescape. Our friend Dolly probably wouldn’t even have noticed the disruption. Mary and I maintained our balance, but it took some work.

We noted at the time how like life the lake can be: Any calm day can be disrupted by the visible — large and small boats, jet skis, weather. And the unseen — boats whose water passage occurred even miles and many minutes away.

Our lives are like that, are they not? Sometimes we can see and anticipate rough waters, while other times surprise demands that we find new balance and technique. Sometimes, especially as we embark on new adventures, we take an unexpected swim, only to clamber back onboard and learn from the experience.

Ruth Glass is headmaster at Lake Tahoe School. She can be reached for comment through her blog at

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