Monday Meanderings, Vol 6.

I’ve finished another kayak lesson, and I’ve come to understand: this is what addiction feels like. Ever since I started this new gig, people who are close to me know, I just can’t shut up about these lessons. I was apprehensive about this week’s lesson: wet exit and re-entries. Learning to capsize and be in control was one of the main reasons I wanted to take this course. It was an intro – each of us got the opportunity to practice twice. But that told me all I needed to know – I’m hooked! I want more! Our instructor offered an analogy that I think is so very true: getting wet in kayaking is like falling in skiing. Accept that it will happen, and this is will free you to improve on your skills and get better at it.

I knew I liked paddling, but I didn’t think I would enjoy these lessons so much. The constant motion of a kayak on the sea is just so FUN – it’s a whole different experience than lake paddling. Somewhat surprisingly, the person who has taken the most interest in my courses (or at least heard me out the most as I describe in every detail the amazing new things I’m learning) is my mom. Mom had never warmed to paddling, even though I tried several times to introduce her to it at the lake. She never felt in control enough to be comfortable in a kayak and recalls with awe that my first time ever on a kayak was with her.

I was 14 or 15 when I paddled my first kayak. At the time, handcrafted wooden kayaks were available for rent from Britannia Shipyards in Steveston. I don’t know when this service stopped, only that when I was older and wanted to repeat this experience, they were no longer there. Prior to this, I had canoed before. The nimbleness of a kayak (even a huge wooden one) immediately appealed to me. Add to that, both sides getting an even workout and the freedom of paddling solo (a much more technically demanding task in canoeing), and I knew I had found my craft.

I’ve had my eye on this kayak course for more than 5 years, but have not managed to actually take it until now. My mom commented, that I am probably busiest right now than I ever was in the past. She is right, so here is what was preventing me:

1) I was afraid of going to the course alone.

Being quite an introvert, it’s always a challenge for me to join a new group. It takes me longer than most to warm up to people and by the time I warm up to them, the course is just about over. Knowing this about myself, it takes great effort to join a group alone. When I found out that an old friend from my old youth group was taking this course, I jumped at the chance at the company. In the future though, I may not be as lucky to have the chance at company. I am beginning to appreciate how difficult it is to find a partner who has the same interests, and that to pursue interests that are important to me, I sometimes will have to go it alone.

2) I thought it was too expensive.

At around $500, the course costed a considerable amount. Since certification meant little to me, there was always the nagging question of, do I really need lessons? The answer is no. There are a lot of resources such as books and clubs to meet more experienced paddlers, but now I am taking the course, I can vouch for the value that the course offers, despite its cost. The focused and technical step-by-step instruction with live demonstrations and interaction makes the large sum worthwhile.

3) My mindset was different.

I was at a different stage of my career. Early on, work was till among my most fulfilling roles. I wanted to excel at it and looked to advance. My focus was on establishing myself in my position and building a nest egg for a future family. Now, I have the family that I had planned for. I’m less competitive and less interested in constant advancement. I’m happy with my job and my salary is enough for my family’s needs as well as for our enjoyment. This is part of my enjoyment.

4) I thought I was too busy.

Sure, I was volunteering here and there on my time off, most significantly, serving as President to my Strata council that seem to eat up all free time. Looking back, those days were easy compared to now, as I ease into the life of a full-time working mom of two toddlers. The emotional involvement of being mom and, as a friend so aptly called his wife, “Director of Operations of the household”, carving time out for paddling (something just for myself) feels more necessary than it ever was.

In retrospect, I would have benefitted a lot from taking this course earlier. Not only were the daytrips that rounded of the course more diverse (across the Lower Mainland, as opposed to fixed start at Jericho Beach now), but I would’ve understood more about kayak fit and what to look for in a kayak purchase. I would’ve known earlier how much fun this sport is and had a few more years to develop skills. Hindsight is 20/20 and I’m grateful (especially from that kick in the butt from that youth group friend) that I’m doing this finally.

I suspect that these four things that kept me in inaction can be applied to many things in the future too. This experience, if anything, impresses upon me the shortness of our lives and the importance of pursue what is important to us when we can. It is easy to take our physical health for granted. In trying to persuade my mom to join me on a paddle, I’m reminded how this activity that I love now may not be something I can do forever. So now that I can, I need to incorporate this new addiction into my routine.

Last year’s trendiness of Pokemon Go has been an interesting phenomenon. Although I am not a Pokemon fan and did not participate in the hubbub, I think the applications of augmented reality was an area of great potential. Now, for residents of Vancouver, there is an augmented reality emergency preparedness game to promote education about disaster preparation. It’s worth a look — now, if only I had more time …. (see #4 above).

As I head into my second Bike to Work Week, I can’t help but think that this would be really useful on my commute.

Why the cute pictures of otters? As we were learning how to do a heel-hook assisted re-entry, our instructor likened the kayaker’s position to the kayak to a sea otter feasting on urchin. And later, a new fact of the week for me — that a group of otters is called a raft. The same term is used for a group of kayaks lined side by side to each other. (See? I told you I can’t shut up about this).

More on my newfound obsession and other tidbits from this week, including a very good use of augement reality and an ingenious bike hack.
Me on my first kayak, circa 2003 or 2004. Shady Island in the background is accessible at low tide, but has since my childhood been the site of several drowning accidents. Read your tide charts before you go!