Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Learning to Kayak

For Christmas I gave my beloved a trip to Glacier Bay. She'd been wanting to see icebergs and whales for awhile. The trip obviously needed to include sea kayaking as part of the deal. As neither of us had ever done more than a couple of hours in one of these slivers of fibreglass and nylon, we agreed to take a two day intro course at Chadburn Lake this past weekend.

While the weather was mostly sunny and warm, the water of the lake had only just seen off its winter sheath of ice - it was clear and cold. Early lessons on Saturday included getting into the kayak without getting really wet, and a few minutes practicing each of the basic strokes. With our extensive background in canoeing we quickly caught on to these elements and were soon skittering across the water with aplomb. However, more difficult things awaited us.

Learning to kayak actually has little to do with paddling the kayak, it has much more to do with being on a kayak expedition. What other reason is there for learning to kayak, if not to follow the ever expanding reach of this Inuit invention to the coastal waters of every continent. So we learned about the group dynamics of formation paddling, the importance of leadership skills in keeping the group together and how to address sickness or injury on the water.

At the end of the day we returned to our beach and loosened our hips with some lateral rolling of the kayak. I enjoyed this and when Terry, our instructor added some paddle stabilization we could push beyond the limits of just the kayak. I thoroughly enjoyed the feeling of control at the edge of capsize. Terry shouted encouragement and taunted me to touch my head to the water. I went for it.

Immediately I entered another world! A serene pale emerald coloured landscape opened before my eyes as I hung weightlessly upside down. I waited for awhile to be rescued but apparently the rest of the class, there were only four of us including the instructor, were busy doing something else. Eventually I reached forward to grasp the handle of the skirt hanging down in front of me and ejected from the kayak. However, instead of falling down I twisted and popped upwards above the water. Suddenly I was back in the world of cold and breathlessness, my kayak and paddle slowly drifting away from me towards the shore.