I’m a kayaker

June 4th, 2014

Last weekend, for the first time in my life, I went kayaking!

I loved it so much, I went again the next day.

For the last few months I’ve spent a lot of time reading, watching videos, listening to podcasts — all about paddling. And I have to say that so much of that information came in very handy on my first time out on the lake.

I learned so much in a short period of time… and a lot of it was simply reenacting what I had seen others do. Getting in and out of the boat from shore, from a beach, from above the kayak, while in the water, etc. Paddling by twisting rather than pulling. Steering by using my inertia and dragging a single paddle. Emptying the water out of my boat while in the water. I practiced all of these things. Some, reluctantly (such as getting back into the kayak after falling out of it).

The water was very cold and so I expected to be much colder than I ended up being. A kayak stays remarkably warm and, obvious or not, paddling keeps you pretty warm. When I fell in on the second day — I’ll tell this story in a minute — my feet were pretty much numb within about a minute of being in the water. However, sitting in the kayak just a few centimeters between my butt and the water, I was warm.

Speaking of my feet being numb; something I didn’t give much thought to was that my feet may fall asleep while kayaking. The entire time you’re kayaking you’re sitting upright with your feet stretched out in front of you. Just like sitting on the floor in your living room with your feet straight out. Do that long enough and your feet fall asleep. I probably wouldn’t have noticed too much except that I was practicing getting in and out of the boat several times… each time I did I ended up almost falling over because my feet were asleep. From what I’ve read, I think I can solve this with better seat foam. Maybe I’ll try that. Or maybe my body will get more used to it.

On my first day I saw a muskrat, turtles, geese, frog eggs, and much more. Learning to kayak is fun but this is why I’ve wanted to get out from behind the desk and start seeing the world around me again. The muskrat allowed me to get pretty close. The turtles, on the other hand, are quicker than their reputation would have you believe.

The second day my friend Andrew drove about an hour to join me. Which was a blast. Within minutes of being on the lake Andrew and I ran into an older couple kayaking that have been doing so for many years. You could tell they were well seasoned. We paddled over to them, have an excellent conversation about the lake, kayaking, about my Oru Kayak, and then promised to see each other again.

Then, it happened. I fell in. I was paddling under the overhangs of a few pine trees on the far side of the lake when I was ducking to miss a branch and boom… splash… I was in over my head. Believe it or not, I was so happy this happened. I had been sort of nervous about falling in since I hopped into the kayak. How would I react? Would I come out of the kayak easily? Would I be worried about getting to the surface? It turns out — all of my fears were unfounded. I was out of the boat and swimming with the kayak in tow within an instant. I reached shallow enough water to stand, tipped my boat nose up and got the majority of the water out, braced myself against the shore and climbed back in. It wasn’t hard at all.

Now with that out of the way I feel much more confident in the boat which I think will help me to explore even more. And, I think, I know how I made a mistake. I leaned back and away from the branch. Leaning back makes you much more unstable in the boat. Leaning forward seems to have the opposite effect. This seems to make sense since, if you want to roll from underwater, you lean back and out as you paddle. So you essentially swing your weight out and back to bring the boat upright. I did the opposite and flipped it. Good to know.

I’m looking forward to getting out again this weekend – either today or tomorrow. More adventures, more learning, more paddling. My next goal is to learn how to deal with the currents from rivers going into and out of the lake and, perhaps, even heading up a river a little.