By Courtney Welch

Sometimes we need to come up for air and take a deep breath. What began as a reprieve from the long Michigan winters, thanks to an annual work trip to Lakeland for baseball’s spring training, has evolved into a five-year tradition of exploring the beautiful Florida waterways. I’ve done this paddle before, starting at the Silver Springs State Park, and enjoyed the downstream journey. This year, I began at Ray Wayside Park for an up-and-back paddle with Florida friends. The water always invites a deeper presence while paddling. Alligators to the left. Monkeys in the trees. Manatees, turtles and fish below. The real dream for me is in the underwater world. There was one manatee up near the spring and I was excited to try out my new “dome” attachment for my GoPro, which lets you capture under/over water shots.  This was my first attempt to catch the essence of an animal that has taught me so much about slowing down, so time feels paused and you are truly in the moment. It’s easy to stop and observe them for hours, and be reminded that when you slow down you have time to be curious, even playful, and notice the magic happening around you. That simple process of coming up for a breath and truly breathing helps us continue on. It’s a reminder I’ll keep coming back for again and again.

Courtney Welch is an avid paddleboarder and photographer. In 2020, she paddled 401 different bodies of water and more than 1,000 miles.  You can view her work on Instagram at @inspiredbymovement.

FORUM Magazine Spring 2021, Written in Water

This article originally appeared in the Spril 2021 Issue of FORUM Magazine. Visit our collection at the USFSP Digital Archive by clicking here.