–by G.K. Sydney (photo and column)
Yes, it’s hard. It’s really hard to learn new things and seems to be harder the older you get. Ouch, did I just say that? Did I just almost admit that 1) I’m no longer young, and 2) I might be defeated? No. Never. I would never do that. I just dreamt I did. Forget it.
But yeah, it’s hard. And the task I have taken on now seems to be almost too much to scale. Too big a mountain. But you know what? I’m gonna do it.
We have bought new kayaks. Goodbye to the huge tandem that was untippable, unsinkable (or so I liked to think) and mostly powered by the good strong man at the back. Gone are the days when I could take a break, trail my hand in the water and rest my legs on the top of the boat in the sun. Yup, quite the princess.
Instead, we now have a couple of sleek, new beauties, lovely to look at and gorgeous to paddle. But whoa, these things can tip! They can roll over at the drop of a hat, let alone a good wave. And there’s no human motor at the back, steering and pushing hard on his paddle. It seems now that if I want to get anywhere, I have to do it all. What kind of fair is that? How could I let this happen?
But we did it. So now, here I am. At this point, I could say this is too hard for me. I can’t do it. I’m (heaven forbid) too OLD…………. But no. I have decided that’s not going to happen. I am going to do it. I’m going to learn to kayak in a single, tiny, life-threatening boat, on the ocean, and to save myself when I experience the inevitable dunking. I will. I am.
So how do I go about this tremendous feat? Well, first off, we signed up for lessons. What the heck, we’ve been kayaking in our big double boat for a few years now; we should find this a breeze. So off we go to the Sidney harbour for a weekend of fun and instruction.
Hmm. Should I have gotten my first clue when I saw the 15-year-old instructor? Well, okay, maybe he was 20 or 25, but honestly, that’s it. And the other students? Well, two strapping young men, athletes, muscle-bound, good grief! What’s happening here? Where are the other women and middle (old) aged people?
Doesn’t matter. I can do it. When the instructor kept calling back to ask me if I was alright, it was ok. When I kept falling behind because everyone else was bigger and stronger and better than I was, it was not so good. And when I became exhausted, it was downright lousy. But still, I didn’t give up. And when the wind came up and the waves got bigger than the boat, I still kept going. I’m gonna do this.
Well, the sum total of that weekend of instruction was that I learned that I have an immense amount to learn. And so I’m working on it.
First self-lesson: How to get this damn little boat back upright after you fall out of it. So there we are, at Matheson Lake, tipping ourselves out of the boats. Jim gets back to the surface, lifts his kayak effortlessly, gets rid of the water and flips it back upright. I watch. Okay, my turn. Lift the stern, drain the water, flip it over. Good lord, it’s heavy! And slippery. And uncooperative as all get out. Finally, after about four tries, the evil thing is floating again.
Next: get back on (not in) the boat. Now, remember, I’m calling it a boat, but in fact, it’s really just a long skinny hunk of slippery fibreglass that has a will of its own. And that will tells it to tip. Yep, that’s right, tip every time this silly person decides to try to climb back on. Well. Doesn’t matter. I’m gonna do it. Yes, I am. Here goes.
Kick hard in the water, lift the body up and over. Splash. Land back in the water.
Kick hard again, lift. Splash.
Pant, curse, kick and lift again. Wow, almost success. Slip off. Land in water.
Curse more, kick, lift, land torso on the bow. By now, a crowd on the shore. Lift one leg (very gracefully) over the bow, try, oh try hard, to sit up. Tip the boat, land in the water. Imagine lots of laughter on the shore as you are underwater.
But, in reality, that was success. I actually did get up onto the boat and spent ten seconds there before it tipped again. Baby steps.
And so it goes. I have a heck of a job here. I am going to succeed. I may take a long time to do it, and with this rain, it may not be till next year. But I will persevere. I will keep you posted as I make progress, so keep watching. Chapter Two in the Too Stubborn to Stop chronicles coming up. Stay tuned.
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