Thursday, July 14, 2011
Paddling Your Own Kayak
As I had anticipated, a week of dedicated vacationing and lounging (see right) has restored some buoyancy to my spirits. The combination of a riverfront vacation house, two kayaks, and a canoe has further inspired me to get my behind out on the Russian River and paddle, a thing I don't do nearly enough considering I live two blocks from a river in my normal life.
In a previous, slightly less normal life, I skittered on the fringes of the river rat community. Working for Project RAFT (Russians and Americans For Teamwork), I was initiated into the adrenaline-soaked mysteries of pool and drop rapids, standing waves, river-wide holes, undercuts, highsiding, and other ways to harm oneself. My first foray on the South Fork of the American River happened on a cloudy Tuesday in May, and our crew consisted of two world-class river guides, a graphic designer, a Russian cosmonaut, his American translator, "Red Ted," and me. We got to the river and I promptly put my wetsuit on backwards.
Over the years, I got better, and I got to have some fairly nutty adventures that involved rivers, including serving as location manager and translator on the 1994 shoot of "A Glorious Way to Die." I became a fairly strong paddler of a raft and even passed guide school at Whitewater Voyages' annual spring academy. I knew and even roomed with some fabulous kayak gods and goddesses, who worked with me more or less diligently on their craft or sullen art. Once or twice I took a real kayak on rivers with little ripples, and twice I even rolled the kayak like a real paddler.
However, I have never felt completely at ease with the kayak. River kayaks are tippy and awkward to get in and out of; sea kayaks, while more stable, are heavy and hard to turn, especially the sit-on-top kind. But I continue to be attracted to them, especially around flattish, unchallenging water. Being on and in water has always been a passion of mine. I used to have a battered river kayak that I would take out on the reservoir in Los Gatos.
So when we found this vacation house on the Russian River (now, alas, largely depleted of Russians) that came with kayaks, paddles, life jackets, and even a canoe, I was stoked beyond belief. I pictured myself spending hours out on the water every day, growing mightier by the minute. As it happens, I have been out almost every day, though not for hours. My shoulders, lats, various core muscles and all the bits involved in a really good paddle stroke, are not very strong at the moment, so I can't do too much at one time. Plus young Jesse, who has a four-year-old's enthusiasm for doing everything the grownups do, has wanted to be in the boat all the time that I am in the boat. This has made paddling difficult, plus he gets cold more quickly than I. Also, there are winds and tides this close to the ocean that affect our ability to paddle easily. Finally, we have to drag the kayaks up and down a fairly steep bank to make sure that the tides and winds don't carry the boats away. Russ has kayaked too, as demonstrated at right.
Nevertheless. Paddling has happened. My arms are stronger. I have learned how to balance a boat with a four-year-old in it. I have a nasty sunburn on my secondary sexual characteristics. Tomorrow we have to leave, but I am resolved to paddle more once we get home. Paddling is fun.
Posted by Jayne_SFT