I rock with the paddleboard as I move across the lake. Part of me thinks we should have already sunk, but here we are. With my sister sitting at the front, and my cousin at the back, I’m pretty sure we have more people than we should on the board. On the bright side, having three people on the paddleboard keeps it from rocking too much every time we hit a little wave.
After a minute or two of paddling, we reach our destination—a cliff looming over the lake. We paddle through its menacing shadow as we stare up at the top. It only seems to get bigger and bigger the closer we get. The whole side of the cliff that we’re headed to grows to a steep angle of smooth rock, almost as if a giant had cut the cliff with a knife.
As we reach the base of the cliff, we hop into the water and push the paddleboard onto some rocks. We get up onto the base and begin our climb, with my cousin in the lead and my sister and I not too far behind. The angle of the cliff forces us to scramble up, using both our hands and feet to keep ourselves from slipping.
“Watch your step,” my cousin calls from above. “You don’t want to lose your balance on any loose rocks.”
My sister and I stop a little over halfway up the cliff and watch our cousin as he climbs to the top. After checking to make sure nobody floats in the water below, he backs up a couple steps, races toward the edge, and leaps off. He flies through the air, then straightens like a board and disappears into the water with a splash.
“That was awesome!” I call down to him when he pops back up.
Then, with a little shiver I realize, because my cousin has just jumped, I have to go next. I climb up to my jumping point and stand on the edge of the cliff, looking down at the water below. I wasn’t super nervous up until this point. Yeah, I know I’m pretty high above the water, but it didn’t really hit me until now. Between me and the water is a forty foot drop, but in my eyes it might as well be double that.
“You got this!” my cousin yells up from the water. “You just have to take one step forward.”
Looking over the edge, all I can think of is everything that could go wrong. I imagine myself hitting a rock, turning when I jump so instead of hitting the water feet first like I should, I slam into the water in a half belly-flop. I picture myself hitting the water, spinning, losing my sense of direction, and getting lost in a sea of nothingness.
“Calm down,” I tell myself, as I try to slow my racing heart. “We checked for rocks, so you won’t hit any of those and as long as you don’t jump weird you’re going to hit the water just fine.”
I’m stuck in a cycle of hyping myself up, getting ready to jump, then looking down at the water and chickening out. Part of me tells myself that if I jump, I’ll be just fine, considering my cousin jumped from at least ten feet higher than me, but the other part of me screams to get away from the edge. I stare down at the water, telling myself that it’s now or never.
“Here goes nothing,” I mutter to myself, and hop over the edge.
For some people intense moments like these seem to last forever, but not for me. The water races toward me at neck-breaking speed and I stare at the water about to slam into me before taking a sharp breath and squeezing my eyes shut. Suddenly I find myself under several feet of water. The water isn’t actually as cold as I thought it was going to be. Bubbles tickle my back as they float up past me. I take in what I have just done before kicking my way up to the surface. When I pop my head above the water, I smile and yell up to my sister who looks down at me nervously.
“You got this!” I say. “It’s actually kind of fun!”