A few years ago, when my friend Sarah started whole-heartedly following her passion for kayaking, I could only summon the most abstract of support and interest for this enthusiasm. I am not sporty and do not feel a great affinity for watery environments. For some reason too murky to delve into I felt particularly averse to trying kayaking.
But I overcame all sorts of fears and aversions to take up swimming this year, and have enjoyed gaining confidence and competence in the water. I learned that I could take on a physical challenge in the same way I take on other kinds of challenges.
Sarah often bemoans her friend's lack of interest in kayaking, and frustration with finding people to go paddling with. So, mostly because I love her dearly rather than any great desire to kayak, I organised a trip for us when she came to stay last weekend. I contacted a new friend, who with her partner, run Pacific Coast Kayaks and booked us on a guided kayaking trip.
In a party of 8, mostly women, we took a leisurely paddle up the Patua Estuary last Sunday. I was in a double kayak with Sarah, and she kept us afloat, going in (more or less) the right direction, and paddled alone when my shoulders packed in.
I discovered I really like kayaking- at least at a gentle pace on calm waters (I can't imagine ever wanting to try white water). I like the sensation of gliding across the silky surface of the sea. I like the gentle splish splosh dripping sounds of the paddling. I like the rhythm. I really liked seeing bush and birds from the water.
Despite my extreme nervousness on my way to the water, once I was on it I felt completely safe. It was nice to be a paying customer and be so well cared for by Mark whose calm competence was utterly reassuring. It was very very nice to be with Sarah and share in her greatest passion. And it was delightful to paddle in and out of the company the friends and family who made up the rest of the party and stop for lunch and coffee on a ribbon of muddy bank among the mangroves.
Despite getting so sore that I couldn't paddle the last stretch home against the wind (luckily Sarah is so strong and enthusiastic that I believe her reassurances that it didn't matter that I became a dead weight), I loved the whole experience and can't wait to go on another (shorter) trip. When I look back at this year of taking on so many new challenges (learning letterpress, taking up swimming, making a career change, putting on a solo exhibition) kayaking will stand out as a sweet surprise for its ease.
Photos thanks to Sharon Ketko (that's me in the blue hat and Sarah in the white cap).