Monday, July 9, 2012

Kayaking for Divas

I have discovered the joy of being on the water.  As a child I loved being at my grandparents cottage on a lake in the summer times, but I didn't particularly love all things water.  For instance, I loved going fishing with my grandpa in his rowboat.  I didn't love the 'treat' of going out on the neighbor's pontoon.  I loved water skiing and riding in the ski boat.  I hated being in a canoe.

My canoe loathing has been an issue in my marriage.  DH loves canoeing.  His uncle runs a canoe livery in Arkansas.  Canoeing is in his blood.  DH would canoe every month of the year if he could (one year he did April through October, but year-round in Michigan is pretty difficult due to many rivers and lakes freezing in the colder months).  And of course he wants me to share in his canoeing ecstasy.

I made an effort, when we were dating, to go out canoeing with him. It wasn't bad, it was just me and him in a canoe on a river near where my parents lived (it was their canoe we borrowed).  But it was still canoeing--to me more stressful than fun.  It took him about ten more years to get me into a canoe again.

That time it was a big family and friends canoe trip on a slow and easy river near where he had grown up and Mother-in-Law still lives.  About a dozen and a half people, and many boats.  I did not have one ounce of fun (in addition to not liking canoes, I also don't like the chaos and hassle of large groups).  The next time DH tried to talk me into canoeing with him, I told him only if it were he, I and our own children.  No other relatives, no friends.  And no all-day-on-the-river trips.   That was nearly ten years ago.

Meanwhile, he and our kids canoed alot without me (with relatives and friends).  I still don't understand why, in all those years, he couldn't say to his mother or siblings or friends who said "I want to come too" any time he mentioned he was planning to canoe on a particular weekend "no, this is just Kris, the kids and I", but he didn't.

Over time, our kids discovered kayaks.  They wanted to not share canoes because the experienced inevitably got paired up with the newbies on canoe trips, and each took to kayaking as kayaks became available. We acquired not just two canoes, but several kayaks along the way.  (The uncle running the canoe livery in AR annually weeds some boats from his fleet and replaces them with new ones; even culled, these boats are better quality than the affordably priced average canoer  models brand new).  I observed, and thought.  Kayaking began to look appealing to me too.

The more I thought about a kayak versus a canoe, the more I began to want to try one for myself.  The more I said to DH "I'll go on the next trip, if it's not a big group thing".  From my point of view, a kayak looked better than a canoe.  In a canoe,you sit up on the seat, where I always felt too high and tippy. In a kayak my center of gravity would be much closer to the water. To me, that sounded more stable.

I didn't however, like the idea of the kind of kayak you sit on top of that has drain holes in the seat area--with my eczema I spent many years of my life with uncomfortable skin and still feel unpleasantly prickly when damp.  No, I wanted to sit down in the kayak where I could stay dry.  Stable and dry, a safe bet.

That was my objective: to go on a river without getting wet.  No tipping over, no water where I was sitting, no being splashed (another reason I don't like big groups), and preferably not getting dripped on by my own or someone else's paddle.

To try to explain my goal to others makes me sound rather prissy.  Oh well, I can't help it.  I don't want to be wet.  For me, being wet is not fun; it's rather torturous.  I don't want horseplay near me that will splash me, and if someone ever tipped me over "in fun" I would have a very hard time not ripping them a new one.  I hate being wet that much.  Wet is for showers.  Wet is for swimming.  Wet is not for being in a boat on a river for several more hours until you get to the takeout. 

Well, over Memorial Day weekend this year, DH decided he was ready to take just a small, short canoe trip with me.  We loaded his canoe and three kayaks into the back of our pick-up.  The four of us; DH, DD1, DD2, and I, drove about forty-five minutes away to the Huron River.  Not one of DH's favorite rivers because it's pretty low and slow.  But he was doing this for me.  It was a river that even a newbie would have a hard time tipping over on.

I loved it.  Even though my first minutes of kayaking were spent learning to paddle upstream (with only one vehicle, DH was planning to go upstream a ways, then turn around and float back to where we were parked), I absolutely loved it.  I did not get wet.  I was on the river with DH and the girls, having a fun family time.  I never had to face a canoe again (dreaded canoes!); I could kayak!

In late June, we made a trip up north and I kayaked a different stretch of that river I'd been in a canoe on almost ten years ago.  I was not stressed out (well, at the beginning a little, because we had two extra people along and the time spent on water would be at least three hours which was twice as much as I'd done over Memorial Day weekend).  About an hour into the float, however, I made a discovery.  Since we weren't going upstream, I didn't have to paddle hardly at all.  We mainly just floated along and only used our paddles to keep from being turned sideways or backwards by the current.  Hmm.  I actually felt bored.  Uh oh.  I don't do bored well.  I have never been a person to just sit and do nothing.  When I sit, my hands are usually busy typing or writing or crocheting or doing counted cross stitch.  To be in a kayak with nothing in my hands except a paddle I rarely needed was making me stir crazy.  I  couldn't wait to get to the takeout and be done boating so I could engage my body and brain into something that burned more energy.

I battled this urge to jump out of my kayak (which wasn't an option, because then I'd be wet and nowhere near a towel and dry clothes to change into!) by occasionally turning my boat and paddling upstream for 100 yards before turning again to float back downstream.  DH asked, after the fourth or fifth time, why I was doing this.

So I told him why.  He got a thoughtful look on his face and said "you need a harder river". 

"But I don't want to get wet." I reminded him.  "I don't want to tip over."

"Then you'll have to get better at kayaking." He said.

This past weekend, he took me to a more challenging river.  One that was narrower, with many tight turns and several obstacles (fallen trees that blocked all but a canoe-width of the river, large rocks, a few small rapids).  I loved it.  It was definitely a river that required more technique than just floating along. It required near constant observation, reading the river, and reacting to things along the way. It kept my mind busy, and my hands busy paddling to steer eighty percent of the time.

Not to say I didn't get frustrated in parts, with new challenges I didn't yet have the tools for--like not knowing more than how to paddle forward!--but I learned alot, experimented alot, and set a new goal for myself.  I am going to go kayaking when DH canoes.  I am going to learn to do some of the tough rivers he does (he's been white-water canoeing on a Class III river), and I'm not going to get wet doing it. 

I told him this.  I said I will figure out this kayaking thing; I'll master it and figure out how to do it without getting wet (he laughed at my 'jiggle the water off the paddle' move after every stroke I made so none had a chance of dripping on me).  And once I've figure that out, I said I will write a book on the subject, and title it Kayaking for Divas, so other people who don't like being wet can learn to enjoy kayaking too.  :0)

I may need to acquire some extra equipment along the way, like a skirt to keep water out of my kayak when I get to the white-water type rivers, and a wetsuit so I can do the cooler floats in spring and fall and not just be a hot weather kayaker.  But I'll do it.

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