The allure of paddling is a persistent one. It’s a lifelong, affordable recreation anyone can enjoy because it’s less about brute physical strength than about technique. But as Lance Armstrong would say, it’s not about the boat. The boat is a vehicle, not only for transportation and recreation, but for a return to a natural state we all intuitively know but seem to have forgotten: being near water makes us happy. Marine biologist Wallace J. Nichols noted in his book Blue Mind that being near water is “the inverse of our current condition of monotonous suffocation.” In our day-to-day lives, we’re over-stimulated and overcommitted—and stressed. Stress isn’t new, of course, but our kind of constant, chronic stress is. “So when you see water, when you hear water, it triggers a response in your brain that you’re in the right place,” Nichols said. The perk of paddling is that it puts you in the water and not just near it, one with its elemental rhythms. Paddling becomes like a meditation that begins with your body and ends up sending gentle ripples into your mind—it encompasses your whole being. When you’re able to disconnect and let go like that, you’re free to calmly acknowledge even the most terrifying experiences life throws at you. It allows your mind to disengage from them and wander at its leisure, mimicking the whimsy of the river itself. Paddling is the ultimate restorative.