–by G.K. Sydney (photos and column)
If there is no struggle, there is no progress.
No struggle, no progress. Hmm, deep. But after attempting to think intelligently like Mr. Frederick Douglass, all I know is that as I’m trying to become a real sea kayaker, I’m not sure about the amount of progress and this learning to stay afloat in the ocean is one heck of a struggle.
But I have to admit that since I last wrote, we really have moved forward. I still can’t get back in the kayak if I flip, I’m still pretty nervous when it comes to saltwater and big waves (and jellyfish), yet things are good. My quest to learn and master something new goes on and I’m feeling a bit better.
I‘m gonna do this.
For instance, I can now get in this skinny little thing from land without ending up in the water before I even start. Foot, bum, foot. That’s how you enter a single sea kayak as you prepare to launch. No grace, no style, but at least a somewhat stable beginning. Okay, next?
Well, after much practice, I can:
- Position my water bottle on the deck without it falling in the water.
- Do up my hatches without screaming in frustration (they are waterproof. To be so, they have to be tight. So tight it takes Superman to get them to close. But I now can do it. Hah).
- Get my feet on the pedals (could never find the damn things before) and
- Get my skirt (the amazingly stubborn piece of neoprene that keeps water from coming into the seating area of this excuse-for-a-boat) into position without ranting and crying.
After all that, I can actually be ready to take my first forward strokes within an hour of beginning this whole process. Ok, I guess this is progress.
And I am safer. Sort of. We have made the gigantic purchase that every sea kayaker should make – that of acquiring incredible contraptions called “dry suits”. Never mind that they cost as much as a month’s rent on a mansion, they’re worth it. Totally unflattering, horrible to get in and out of, and pretty darn uncomfortable, yes, but hey – goodbye, hypothermia. Still can’t get back in the boat, but at least I’ll stay dry and relatively warm if I do fall in. Yep, moving forward.
And the final challenge at this point in the game is getting in and out of those formidable outfits. Think of this: a dry suit is both your shirt and your pants when you are kayaking and yet it needs to be all one piece. You, therefore, have to enter and exit this thing utilizing openings in the suit that are done up with zippers. These zippers are so strong they keep out water and defy the most nimble set of hands. And the final hurdle is learning to tolerate the strongest bands of rubber on the planet at the neck and wrists that also will not let water enter at those points. Not exactly a fashion statement and a serious pain to get in and out of but guess what? After much, much practice (and not just a little cursing), I can do it! Hallelujah!
Well, it seems I’ve struggled and I have actually made progress. And I’m determined that I’m going to continue to do so. Because of that, I will also continue to relate all the details to you as they painfully, gloriously occur. Get ready. We’re not finished with this story yet and I need someone to listen. And I still have a long way to go.
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