I have always been fascinated with kayaking. I have no idea why. I have never been a particularly big fan of other rowing activities, and canoeing seems just plain wrong. But then there’s the kayak… sleek, low to the water, and sporty. A week ago I got to try out a kayak for the first time. I was in a two person kayak with my brother in law. We were down visiting with my sister and his family, and a group of them wanted to go kayaking, so I tagged along. It was everything I thought it would be and more. The “more” part is what prompted this entry.
The day after Christmas was an excellent day to be outside. It was just cool enough to not be hot. We were on the water as the sun was starting to show signs of retreat. As we were putting out the “guy” allowed as how the tide was “coming back in”. I didn’t think much about his statement until about forty minutes later. After a wonderful paddle through the inter-coastal waterway, we poked into a small inlet which promised to lead to a series nearly inaccessible lagoons, which served as a refuge for wildlife. This small inlet was densely surrounded by mangroves and other trees, such that it somewhat resembled a cave. The water was a tea like brown, slowing meandering back into the brush. It was no deeper than twelve to eighteen inches, but it seemed to be plenty to float our kayaks. Until suddenly it wasn’t. We were quite a ways back when we began to have trouble, the kind where you want to float but you aren’t. As the water got murkier, it got shallower, and about this time it was dark enough to make a cup of tea look like spring water. Probing for the depth, I sliced my paddle edgewise into the water, but the water was not even deep enough to cover the width of the blade. As my father pointed out later, the sensible thing would have been to do one of two things: 1) turn around and go back, or 2) get out and walk. Being two educated young men, we did neither. Our solution is somewhat hard to describe. Do you know how an alligator walks? It has been described as a series of push ups. The animal pushes itself off the ground first, then leverages itself forward. Well that’s what we did with our paddles from a seated position in our kayak. Picture me sitting down with my paddle driven straight down into the water, grasping the shaft close to my body in a pose that, out of context, could have looked much like some bizarre gentlemen’s club routine. Pushing down on the paddle and leaning into it served to lift myself partially out of my seat, allowing the kayak to float (very little) so we could make a little forward progress. It was extremely slow going, and every bit as tiring as it sounds. After a good twenty minutes, traveling at a rate of at least three feet per minute, we saw what we had come to see – a flock of birds peacefully wading in the shallow water of a secluded lagoon. It was extremely quiet and even more peaceful from our vantage point within our kayak atop a bar of sand and water. Kayaks are supposed to rock, but you know something is wrong when you can feel a specific pivot point.
This could have been tremendously frustrating and demoralizing, but it wasn’t. Instead, everyone was trying and failing to suppress hysterical laughter. When we finally went back the way we came (once again doing our impersonation of a gator) and returned home, everyone looked to me with remorse. The common theme was “if that was my first time kayaking, I wouldn’t go again” or “you really should try this again sometime”. The thing is, I had a great time. I laughed too much for it to be a bad time. I might not do the same exact thing again, under similar circumstances (I’d probably prefer to stay in the deep end, thank you very much), but the experience certainly wetted my appetite for more. It was an experience that broadened my horizons. What more can you ask for?