Two weeks ago, I started sea kayaking lessons, something that I have wanted to do for more than 5 years. I had always known that I enjoyed paddling, but the fear of capsizing, especially in ocean waters, have always held me back. Given that the ocean is our most accessible body of water hear in Vancouver, sticking to lakes meant that I am not getting as much time on the water as I would like. I figured, controlled capsizing, and being able to practice the skills to get back into my kayak under the watchful eyes of an instructor would help me overcome some of the fears that have been keeping me from developing further skills in this activity that I already love.

Last lesson was my first time on the ocean and I could only describe the 3-hour lesson as pure FUN! We didn’t venture far out, but being on the ocean meant being in constant motion. This was initially a little bit unnerving, but I quickly got over that as we worked on our basic strokes. Two lessons in, and I am struck by how much there is to learn.

I’m of average height (5’3″) and have always hated rental kayaks. They always felt too wide for me. Depending on where I rented, I sometimes felt that I had trouble even getting the paddle in the water! Luckily, this wasn’t a problem here. After meeting us at the first class, and (literally) sizing us up, I was fitted with a beautiful blue Romany, a narrower kayak with a smaller cockpit. For the first time in a rental, I could reach the foot AND thigh braces. As I sat on the beach trying it out for size, I was a little worried – it felt so snug! But as soon as we got on the water, these worries faded. Despite the initial disorientation of riding on swells, I have never felt so comfortable or in control in a kayak. It had never occurred to me that this snugness was what perhaps a right fit felt like.

Unlike a paddle trip or tour where the primary goal is to get somewhere, the focus of a course was more technical. After each stroke was demonstrated, each student got to try it out and get feedback from one of our two instructors. Some might believe that this detailed focus on technique takes the fun out of the sport. On the contrary, I found it quite enjoyable, to get into the nitty gritty of how to make each stroke as efficient and beautiful as possible. For the first time in a long time, I felt like I was simply at play. Needless to say, the 3-hour lesson went by FAST.

When my daughter was about to enter preschool, I went out of my way to enroll her in a program that valued play. It is widely known that play is essential for childhood development and fostering creativity. As I sat on the water, I realized that this is something that I haven’t practiced myself lately. There is nothing more effective than parenting to point out your own hypocrisies.

Play is a luxury. There are many people in the world who cannot afford to play. As I read Melinda Gates’ The Moment of Lift, I’ve been reflecting on what poverty is. Perhaps, poverty is when someone’s entire personhood is entirely consumed by meeting the survival needs of himself or herself and those of his or her family. In such a situation, there is no opportunity for play.

For those of us who enjoy this luxury, play is a great opportunity for growth. More and more, I’m reconnecting with the activities that make me lose track of time. It’s one of the best ways of taking care of myself. As a full-time working mom, I want to spend as much time with my kids whenever I’m not working. It is only recently that I have allowed myself to, with the help of a wonderful support network, not spend all of that time with them. Yes, there is a bit of guilt, but I get over that quickly, knowing that I am more of the mom that I want for my kids when I have time to play. Next class will all be about wet exits and re-entries. It’s something that I’m a little apprehensive about, but boy, do I look forward to it!