Kayaking on the Hudson

Friday, March 11, 2011

Surf's Up!

I believe that kayaking can be whatever you want it to be.  If you want to buy a cheap kayak, float around watching birds and never learn any advanced kayaking skills, then that’s fine by me.  So long as you are getting exercise, enjoying nature and having fun, that’s all that matters.  But if you’ve ever considered upgrading your skills and/or equipment, this story is for you.

When you have a really good kayak and you spend lots of time paddling it, something magical happens.  You climb into the kayak and realize that you are no longer sitting in it; you are wearing it.  The kayak becomes an extension of your body and all you have to do is think about your next move and it just happens.  

On our way back down Nova Scotia, after our harrowing “Perfect Storm” experience, we came across a gorgeous cove with white sand and crystal clear water.  Andrea had had enough kayaking for one trip, but I decided to paddle out and surf on the waves that were coming in.  I didn’t really know how to surf, but it was exhilarating nonetheless.  I guess I got a bit cocky and while I was surfing a big wave, it turned my kayak sideways and then broke right on top of my head.  These things tend to happen when you attempt maneuvers you really don’t know about.  But here’s where things got really cool…

I realized the wave was going to push me sideways, break over me, and likely capsize my kayak.  I instantly checked the water depth, estimated my distance to shore and determined which side I should hold my paddle on and which side I should exit the kayak from once I was upside down.  All of this took about ½ of 1 second!  All of the classes, all of the practice and all of the preparation had paid off.  My skills were ready to go when I needed them.

The second really cool part was that Nigel Dennis had anticipated that novices would be using his kayaks when he designed the Romany, so when the wave crashed over me, the Romany was like a Weeble Wobble.  I bounced around but never capsized.  All of the money I invested and time I spent paddling this kayak had paid off too.  I returned to shore without ever flipping.

Years later, I was paddling the Romany in rough conditions up in Maine.  I had complete confidence in my kayak and my skills.  Instead of being scared or worried, I had a blast.  I looked around at my friends and they were having a blast too.  I hope some of you will decide to advance your skills so you too can experience what it’s like when human and kayak become one.  Surf’s up, wanna go kayaking?

See you on the water,
Don Urmston

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