It was time for the great adventure, Kayaking 101. The temperature was around 80, clear blue sky, the slightest of a breeze. As soon as Kathy and I saw our guide, we simultaneously let out a whew. Johnny had some size, and he’d be able to save us. Further, he had the calmest, friendliest disposition you could want when your anxiety is creeping past the take three deep breaths stage. These were the perfect conditions for our first kayaking experience.
After the brief orientation and safety speech, and a good shove from Johnny, I was the first to paddle off. I immediately practiced swiveling my hips while keeping my spine straight like he told us, so I’d be ready for waves. “Whoa!” I shouted, as the kayak rocked. I steadied myself and moved out of the foot-deep water. You can do this, you can do this.
Next, I tried to sit up straighter in the seat. No luck. You know young twenty-year-olds who trick out an old car, then steer from a reclining position? That was me. Thanks to years of questionable posture, I spent the next hour and a half in a semi-reclining position, without the benefit of a TV remote in my hand. The only thing missing were the running lights on my kayak.
I turned the corner and was paddling along nicely in the quiet back-channel working hard to avoid the family of swimmers on my right. Suddenly, Tarzan swung out on a rope, splashing into the water. He wasn’t close enough for us to collide, but this was my first test of waves. Fortunately, he was a small man.
Finally, the other two members of my party caught up to me and it took no time for Kathy to be in front. I mean, way in front. I still don’t understand how that happened since I’d built a substantial lead when she was still on dry ground. By the time we entered the marina area, I heard her ask “How deep is the water?”
I was content blissfully thinking I could still touch the bottom.
“A little over 200 feet,” Johnny was quick to answer. Had Kathy been closer to me, I’d have used my paddle for something unintended and would now be enjoying the last ten days in our VRBO alone.
Instead, I refocused. Sit up straight, use your core, pull with your hand closest to the water, three blasts into the whistle for help, or was it one long? Exhale deeply and shout whoo if you tip over. Focus, focus, focus. Yep, this was fun.
As if God was looking out for us, there was no boat traffic coming into or out of the marina, and by the time we exited into the open water, we had a choice.
“Now we can go off to the left, stay close to the shore and circle back to where we started.,” Johnny said, “OR, we can paddle over toward the right, out into the lake, and we’ll see a nice osprey nest along the shore.”
Normally, I’d ask Kathy her opinion, but she was moving so fast, I thought I saw her pick up a water skier. Instead, I worked to keep my inner voice quiet. Oh, I don’t think so. I can find a YouTube video of ospreys hatching in their nest if I want to.
“Ah, I think the route that takes us back will be better today.” I hoped he heard calm in my voice.
We made it back just fine, past the floating restaurant where we must have been the entertainment. I kept a watchful eye on two speed boats but we were in a No Wake Zone, which fortunately, we’d remain in for the rest of the route. When I saw the re-entry area, I picked up my pace and was the first to go in after Johnny. I had survived. The rest would be simple. Right?
No trauma, just drama
It was all fun and games until each of us tried to get out of our kayaks. When I got into the tube of plastic, I felt like a strand of bulky craft yarn threading into the skinny eye of a needle. But I made it. By now however, the yarn had taken on some water.
Johnny coached me. “Swing one leg over the side.”
It took some time, but one leg was set free, swinging in the breeze, toes dipping in the water. With Johnny standing alongside me steadying the kayak with one hand and supporting me with the other, I heaved and willed the rest of me to budge. My fears had come to fruition. My second leg remained outstretched in the kayak and my tush was firmly planted, not about to move. At one point, I asked Kathy to bring me a blanket as I fully expected to spend the night encased in plastic while Johnny searched for a hydraulic lift. But what’s a little challenge?
“Let me swing my other leg over the other side,” I suggested, thinking that straddling the kayak would enable me to just walk out. Now I had two legs free and way too many inches from any surface, with still not a bit of leverage to move the rest. I am sure from the front, I looked like I was birthing a bright red kayak.
Eventually, both legs were on the same side and I rolled myself into the water that was just a few inches deep at that point.
Kathy was next. Her advantage? Shorter legs and smaller feet, so it took her less time to free them. But her challenges were similar. Eventually, after I watched her struggle for a satisfactory period of time, I extended her an oar, she grabbed on with one hand, gripped Johnny with the other, and we pulled her out.
Praise God there were no cameras around. We celebrated our first kayak experience with a champagne toast, included as part of the sunset package.
It was a great first experience and we are still laughing about it. We probably will for some time. In the end, we came to the same conclusion. Some of us were simply born to golf or quilt.