more life lessons from a kayak

17 Rahmat 165 B.E. (Baha’i Calendar)
Soundtrack in my head:  Colbie Caillat, “Bubbly”
Kayak Boat Lake Kayaking Water
Dolly1224 / Pixabay

The way that I talk about kayaking with friends and family, one might think that I spend half my leisure time paddling on the water.  Actually, I think I spend more time talking about kayaking than actually spending time in a kayak.  Today was only my third excursion. Each excursion has been very different.

My first experience was in perhaps an ideal place.   Mirror Lake is calm, and incredibly beautiful.  Once I realized that I could sit in the middle of the lake, relax, and take in the beautiful bluffs and scenery, I realized that I could get hooked on this.  

The first time I tried to go out onto Lake Mendota, there were whitecap waves on the lake, which was quite unusual.  Foolishly, I tried to go out anyway, and couldn’t get more than thirty feet out.  I tried a second time a week later, and this time the water was calm.  My back wasn’t that comfortable, so when I came back, the staff person at the kayak rental place said he would try out several kayaks for me in order to get a good fit.

That ended up being this morning. I tried out a couple of kayaks until I found that an Emotion Edge felt the most comfortable.  I decided that I’d kayak from James Madison Park to Picnic Point, or as close to Picnic Point as I could get.  The waves were a bit bumpier than they were the last time, but I paddled pretty much right into them and did remarkably well.  I felt like I was in pretty good control of the craft, and I had a nice rhythm with my paddling that felt almost meditative.  I thought I was doing really well considering the fact that I was paddling into the wind.  

I made it as far as the Memorial Union Boathouse, and I felt like I could continue,  but decided to turn around.  I figured I could coast back with the wind at my back.  Boy, was I in for a surprise.  

I turned around and started paddling in the opposite direction, and found to my amazement that I wasn’t really going forward.   This surprised me because the wind was now at my back.  I figured it would be a little bit tougher to control the kayak because I wouldn’t be able to see the waves coming towards me.  But what seemed to happen when I paddled is that a wave would pass underneath the kayak and kind of hold it suspended.  And I was about a mile from where I started at James Madison Park.  I wasn’t liking this.

At the same time some clouds rolled in rapidly from the southeast and the winds picked up a bit more.  Waves that I couldn’t see coming started pushing my kayak in one direction or the other and I knew that if a wave hit me from the side, I’d be in danger of getting dumped in the water.  I wanted badly to relax, I wanted to be done with this trip, but I had no choice but to summon up all the energy I had and keep on paddling.

Waves were now lurching my kayak left and right and I nearly tumbled twice.  I paddled furiously.  I found myself quite angry at the wind and the waves. At one point, I remember using my paddle to take a good whack at a wave–partially in order to steer my craft, but also because, well, I felt the wave deserved a good whack.  

Finally, I realized that I could control the kayak better if I continually looked to my left and right to see where the waves were.  I realized I needed to stop fighting the waves, and start working with them.  At one point, I found myself looking at the waves around me and saying, “Okay boys, are we in sync here?”  Before I knew it, I was back at the James Madison Park boathouse coming into shore.

I felt kind of tired and weary as I got out of the kayak and paid for my rental.  But as I walked home, I felt like my mood was lifting.  I was feeling the same rush of energy I often feel after a good bike ride.  I could get used to this.

So, to date, these are the life lessons I’ve learned from my kayaking excursions so far:

  • If things are looking scary, do your best to relax and not freak out.  Often times, it’s freaking out that puts you in the greatest danger.
  • Don’t automatically avoid a new experience just because you’re scared of what could happen.
  • But sometimes, if things are looking scary, you should just stay away from the situation. Don’t be a idiot.
  • Sometimes you need to stop worrying about what you’re doing, look around you, and see how beautiful everything around you is.
  • Taking in and  being aware of everything around you also means being aware of that wave that’s about to smack your kayak sideways and potentially dunk you in the water.
  • Sometimes the easiest way to handle a difficult situation is to tackle it directly.  
  • As the Grateful Dead sang, “When life looks like easy street there is danger at your door.”
  • Having the wind at your back might only cause you to lose control of things.
  • Don’t be angry at the waves life throws you—just try to work with them and harmonize with them.
  • Kayaking lessons would probably be a good investment.

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