Sunday, August 16, 2009

Keeping Fit (2) - Kayaking

There are actions and their receptive objects that just seem to go together, such as a hot knife cutting through butter, a decisive arrow on the resounding air, or an axe cutting kindling from straight grained wood.

These actions have an easy velocity about them, an effortlessness, a decisive linear purpose - Kayaking is like that. A kayak unzips the water rather than cleaves it, the narrow hull moving with the minimum of fuss.

The nature of kayaking conspires to create a 'oneness' between the kayak and the kayaker. In a sense you put the kayak on a bit like putting on a well fitting shoe. You are held gently in the cockpit by a spray skirt which encircles your midriff rather like, well, a skirt, and when you paddle you brace your knees against the hull so that you and the kayak become one, move as one.

It is an easy and satisfying relationship. After a bit of practise it is easy to find a paddling speed which can be kept up for hours at a time, the easily driven narrow hull making easy work of water and waves and travelling long distances with ease.

Once I have put my kayak on and we have exchanged pleasantries, nattered about previous voyages and generally shot the breeze together I like to head for 'The Boundary" if the weather is settled.

The Boundary is a strip of water that I like very very much indeed. It is at the immediate interface between the land and the sea. It is that area of ocean or lakeside that only lets you in when there is a suitable weather window - when the sea is flat, the wind is docile and the sun is shining. It is that area where there are huge jagged treacherous rocks, impaling reefs and small rugged unforgiving islands. Where soaring sheer cliffs with their cascading waterfalls plummet vertically into the ocean. A place where there are huge caves in the cliffs. A place where birds wheel and soar. A place where in a storm it would be certain death to be caught there in a boat.

To explore this boundary is like being in a cage with a tiger after he has had a very long sumptuous meal and you know he has no inclination to eat you. It is like being on the front on the Somme during World War One when the English and German soldiers met between their respective front line trenches to sing Christmas carols together beneath the silence of the guns. It is an eerie and exciting place to be - and a fast moving kayaking is the princess of boats to be exploring this area in.

Into the boundary in a kayak. Try it yourself. Its a wonderful place to be and great exercise. But make sure you know what you are doing. Wear a lifejacket. Tell someone where you are going. Don't go by yourself, and only go when you have a long range weather forcast that assures you of a long period of settled weather.

Paddling your kayak in the boundary is a bit like life itself - a calculated risk.


Dan Gurney said...

Pal, I know just what you're talking about, as a kayak lover myself. But your post here inspired my post about sailing today. Sailing is and has long been a bit closer to my heart than paddling. But being out on the water is great no matter what.

I really enjoyed your paean to paddling.

Alden Smith said...

Yes Dan, in my book, sailing is the best relationship you can have with the ocean by far - its poetry in motion, a meditation and much more. Having said that, I also agree that just being out on the water is great and a blessing.