Black men can't jump (or balance)!

30 August 2016
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30 August 2016, Comments: Comments Off on Black men can’t jump (or balance)!
You’ve maybe seen the 90’s film with Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes.  If not, here’s a quick summary; Woody Harrelson (who’s white) and Wesley Snipes (who’s black) hustle basketball players on the streets of America (“streetballers”)  by pretending Woody is awful  (he’s not he’s brilliant). They win money, lose money, get beaten up, fall out, there’s a love triangle then they end with friendship rekindled. Good film.
There’s an underlying if not obvious message of not judging a book by its cover (you probably remember that one from your mother -Hollywood and Mother’s are often great mentors!)
What am I going on about? Well this lesson was reinforced this weekend and I learnt another.
I spent the weekend with friends in Anglesey, North Wales. A quick summary;  Sunshine, Prosecco, oysters,  red wine, surfing, paddle boarding, barbecue, beach runs and sweaty hang overs.
I tried my hand at paddle boarding for the first time (actually second time as I’d had cheeky lesson two weeks ago-but first time as far as my friends were concerned!). I have a bit of experience with surfing and windsurfing so got up wanging around the harbour pretty easily (falling in is all part of the learning process-the brain acknowledges, remembers and learns that short, quick and jerky movements are less preferable to smooth long ones!).
So after I’d wowed my friends with some short spin turns (going goofy ((instead of normal paddle board stance of facing forward with feet parallel)) with back foot on back of board and turning on an sixpence/winkle), some 180’s (jumping from face forwarding position to facing backwards on the board and then catching a few swells I handed the board and paddle over to my good friend Ben.
A quick summary of Ben ; 6 foot 4, 16 stone black man (and probable ex-good buddy!). A former interschool 100 metre and long jump champion, 1st XI football wing wizard (described by The Times as “Gazzelle-like”!), Lancashire Michael Jackson Dance-off winner 1997 and general all-round sporting and physical hero (He also thinks he looks like the model Tyson Beckford, maybe the bald head however, that’s it!).
Anyway, as I handed over the equipment I was almost sure (preconception/pre-judging) that Ben would do a full back flip onto the paddle board, throw away the paddle and coax a passing dolphin to pull him around the bay like the water born love child of Ben Ainslie and Ace Ventura (not doing another summary-look it up!) .
I was wrong!
He splashed and wobbled around like a deeply distressed beached mackerel on a jellyfish.
With the balance of Bamby he struggled to stay on the board for longer than 10 seconds let alone get any forward movement.
Several mega wipe-outs later I offered some advice; “bend your knees. Lean forward slightly, a high straight front arm, keep the oar next to the board, relax, use the force!”
I was only trying to help but my gentle suggestions were met with schoolgirl like yelps and numerous profanities.
Reinforced Lesson;  Don’t judge a book by its cover. Just because someone is highly skilled or gifted in a certain area does not mean this will translate to other similar yet new areas.
More importantly though I learnt a valuable second lesson;
After several more minutes of Ben struggling and my gently shouting suggestions he stopped and simply stood there on the board.
It looked as if he’d gone into some sort of standing lotus trance meditating on his challenge.
I decided to be quiet and leave him to it fearing he may just slowly lower himself into the Irish Sea one final time and we’d then have to burn the board in a Viking funeral style.
After a few minutes more he began to slowly and smoothly caress the water and ease his way gracefully around the harbour like a seasoned Californian surf-pro.
I asked him afterwards what he was doing and thinking when he stopped. He said he was so knackered from struggling around that his legs were burning and needed some time out to recover.
He simply stood there, blocking out my voice and gathered himself. He said he just thought about what he was trying to do and told himself he could do it (after all he’d already watched his wife Kelly and I do it). He then relaxed and didn’t think too much about it and did it.
Lesson ; With new challenges there will be a period of struggle and adjustment as you learn and get used to the new experience but you will adapt.
You have to go through the process of trial and error and eventually, through perseverance and relaxing into a resourceful state, you will get there (plus you can always take heart from the fact other people have done it).
Great weekend, great lesson, thank you Ben.
Have a great week,
P.S. If anyone has seen a 6 foot 4 black man on a paddle board in the North Wales vicinity please let me know!

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