5 Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Started Kayaking
Confessions of a Newbie Kayaker
I started my kayaking adventures just before summer started, with visions of glorious days spent on the river, snorkeling in Florida’s crystal clear springs, surrounded by smiling happy children. Yeah, my imagination CAN be over active at times. And all things haven’t gone as cheery and golden as planned. No one tells you about the bad stuff, so I learned the hard way, by initiation. Here are 5 things I wish I had known before I started kayaking:
- Alligators terrify me. I don’t mind them at a distance or when they are in the water and I am not, but face to face with a hefty-sized prehistoric beast is my worst nightmare. And it didn’t help that I got chased by one on our first kayak outing. Okay, maybe he just thought I would feed him (that’s illegal and dangerous, by the way), but he came at my kayak- and I didn’t bother to think to ask why, I just hightailed it as fast as I could paddle. I’d canoed Juniper Run during alligator mating season years ago and that had not freaked me out as much as a face to face water level encounter. There’s a twelve foot giant in a swamp on the river we often paddle. He doesn’t bother anyone, but a beast bigger than my 10.5 foot kayak with teeth puts me on edge. I avoid that swamp at all costs. But this is Florida. If there’s water, there’s gators. And gators terrify me.
- Paddling downriver is never a good idea. (Unless you have an extra truck downriver waiting for you). Yup. Took a first trip to learn this lesson. With millions of gallons of water pushing out from a first magnitude freshwater spring, fighting against it to paddle back on the Silver River was a silly idea at the start. The kids were exhausted and so was I. Truly a bad idea. I always try to arrange to paddle upriver-against the current to begin with so that we can float back for a more relaxed final run.
- I will always get wet. Yes, every single time I head out, I always end up wet, and not your oh, look, damp shorts- I’m talking soaking wet like I’ve been sitting in the river itself! How is this possible? Both my husband and son have sit-on kayaks and despite their drain-holes that let the water in, they both manage to stay dry. Me in my sit-in kayak comes out looking like a drowned poodle. I am guessing that I must be a sloppy paddler- much like those sloppy spaghetti eaters, you know, the ones who end up with sauce on their shirts, nose and ears (yes, what is that all about anyway?). Short of using a kayak skirt, which is not an option in the humid tropical Florida, I remain and will remain the kayaker who has to pack a change of clothes in the end.
- Not everyone in my family will love kayaking. Just because I became enamored- okay, obsessed with kayaking, didn’t mean the love would be contagious. My daughter hates kayaking. I often have to beg, coax and even tow her because she often gives up. My husband would rather be fishing, plus he just hurt his shoulder at work, so that puts a damper on any paddling activities for him. It seems that only my son and I share this kayaking passion, or maybe he is just humoring me and I haven’t wised up yet. In any case, this kayaking passion seems to be mine and mine alone- sigh-.
- Kayaking alone is never a good idea. Okay, when I set out on this kayaking journey, I pictured me and my family taking long river treks through crystal clear rivers on the weekends, bonding with other like-minded families, with me hitting the river a couple times a week for an hours paddle- like someone hitting the gym. Visions of toned athletic arms and rock hard abs danced in my mind. Hahaha. Then reality hit, and with it did not come a six-pack stomach! Our nearby river, though extremely busy in the summer months comes to a complete standstill once September hits. The river reverts back to nature with schools of mullet, playful otters and that 12 foot alligator. See #1. My courage quickly sapped away. I had no desire to be on the river alone with that alligator. Yeah, call me chicken- but alligators love to eat chickens! My gator fears topped with the fact I have a 45lb kayak that is impossible to lift alone, I have come to the conclusion that I am neither brave nor strong enough to become a solo kayaker. I’m looking for a little cart to help me carry my kayak, but still have to conquer that gator-fear. Any ideas anyone?
However, with that all said, I’ve taken friends out on the river, introducing them to kayaking delights in hopes one of them might catch the fever. I’ve experienced places I’ve never seen before and could not possibly reach on foot. I’ve seen friendly manatees up-close and had schools of fish swimming around and under my kayak, with absolutely no fear. I’ve paddled up narrow channels that would be impossible to reach by boat, and have seen numerous Florida springs to add to this year’s spring-hunting list (which is so much better than the bear-hunting one from last year!).
Kayaking is an adventure. Kayaking is a challenge. Kayaking is my new passion.