Not a lot of fun in the cupboards to choose from right now is there?

But... I went Stand Up Paddle (SUP) boarding last week!

​At the crack of dawn, I wrenched myself out of my warm and cosy duvet to travel to York with a couple of friends and put wetsuits on in the cold.

​When Katy first asked me if I wanted to go, my first answer was: Absolutely not, no thank you.

​There are three things about me that present challenges to doing any outdoor activity that involves water:

1/ I'm not a confident swimmer. No way would I even jump into a swimming pool if it was over my head.

2/ I have an intense fear of dark water; I need to see what I'm swimming with. Cause ya know, I watched Jaws as a kid. And who knows if there might be a shark in the canal - who knows Hannah?

3/ I despise being cold, I cannot bear it, it makes me feel like I'm going to die - dramatic I know. To add fuel to this, I'm generally much colder than other people, so I'm usually shivering even when others are sweating. All of which you'll know well if you're a long time subscriber.

​So my initial reaction was a big fat NO. But, the reality is that I've been struggling to find things to do on the weekend.

​Here was an opportunity to try something new, get out of my house, do something active and with two amazing women to boot.

When I was working for Yoga magazine as a Travel Writer, I was continuously pushed out of my comfort zone. Continually asked to do things that in all honesty, I would never have had the confidence to do or even thought about doing.

Things like:

  • Climbing Mount Snowden in winter
  • Going wild swimming in Angelsey
  • Doing Yoga on surfboards in the middle of the Caribbean sea
  • Having surfing lessons in Morocco


All of the above, I did not want to do. But, I'd made a promise to myself to keep saying yes when opportunities arose. I knew other people loved doing these things, so I'd give them a go, even though I'm not a strong swimmer, even though I hate the cold, even though I hate dark water.

Each activity was an INCREDIBLE experience that I'm still thankful to have had. I can see why other people enjoy them - because they are enjoyable - they're FUN!

And when we push ourselves out of our comfort zone, our confidence grows tenfold. We feel like a powerhouse, we think: Yeah I did that, what else can I do, seems like there's nothing I can't do?

So after remembering all of this, I said yes.

As we drove through the gates to the marina, I eyed the calm dark water suspiciously: What's in there? How cold is it? Will I fall in?

We got kitted out in wetsuits, windcheaters and life jackets. We looked pretty cool - professional, confident, ready for action!

Of course, the aim of SUP boarding is to stand up on the board, but we started out kneeling while we practised our skills. We were a small group of seven: A mum and son, us three, and Jürgen a tall, muscular German guy and his friend, who seemed even timider around water than I - poor woman.

As we gained confidence, our instructor showed us how to stand up and said: Just have a go.

One by one, the group started to stand up on their boards, and one by one they fell in.

The look of terror on Katy's face as she splashed under the cold, murky waters was enough to confirm it for me: There was no way I was going to punish myself completely unnecessarily by falling in.


I decided right then I wasn't going to stand up. I was more than happy sitting and kneeling on the board and was having a great time as I was.

I told the instructor: Don't bother concentrating on helping me, I'm not going to stand up.

But she couldn't get her head around what I was saying. If she asked me once she asked me 15 times:

  • Do you want me to help you?
  • No, I don't want to stand up.
  • I can help you, though?
  • Sure, I just don't want you to.

It wasn't that I didn't want to stand up, but I definitely did not want to fall in, and that was the 100% inevitable outcome. And my desire to stand up did not outweigh the discomfort of falling in.

By this point I wasn't even scared about falling in, I had my lifejacket on after all. I'd seen everyone else fall in, they were all still alive, no, it was that I didn't want to get wet and cold - fair enough I'd say?

I did feel a bit guilty as I know our instructor (who was terrific btw) felt like she'd personally failed by not getting me standing up. But after the continued questions, I couldn't relax, I just wanted to get on razzing along the canals so I said:

"Look, I didn't come to stand up. I came for the experience, and it's been great thank - you so much."

I meant it.

Did everyone else expect me to stand up? Yes. I could feel the eyes of the group upon me. Would I bow to the pressure? No.

  • Did I feel like I'd missed out by not standing up? No.
  • Was I disappointed I didn't stand up? No.

We were three hours on the water and god it was a great experience, meandering swiftly along wide leafy silent canals.

Jurgen was committed to showing us how great and fast he was and kept paddling away from the group so that we all had to wait around for him to return.

For some strange reason, I was like a stick of dynamite on that board, so on the paddle back, I wouldn't let him pass me. Just as he was catching up, I'd paddle faster.

I did take some sanctuary (pathetic I know!) in his frustration at not being the best or the fastest - but ya know - get over yourself Jurgen.

So we finished, it was great, it was amazing, I'm happy I went, and I'd definitely go again. I've even been looking at buying my own board, that's how much I enjoyed it.

My main messages to you:

1/ Why not take a risk and try something out of your comfort zone? It could be fun, and you'll feel invincible afterwards. Please let me know if you do - just hit reply.

2/ Saying no when you don't want to do something, even though others expect you to, is the ultimate in confidence-building. When we say no in these circumstances, it gives us an immediate self-esteem boost.


What have you been saying yes to, when you'd rather say no?


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About me

Hannah Anstee portrait

Hannah Anstee is a former British Wellness Journalist turned Women’s Midlife & Wellbeing Coach.

You may know her from her work as Beauty Editor at YOGA Magazine or her contributions to The Independent or Psychologies Magazine.

Hannah uses a kind and candid approach to help women rewrite their stories.