It was natural that I would kayak, just as it was inevitable I would sail. When you are born into a water family, being afloat rapidly becomes your happy place. I am as happy lying outside the break, waiting to take a ride in the Green Room, as dipping my Greenland paddle into a mill pond on a frosty fall morning, I have been afloat for longer than I can remember. I keep coming back for more.
The youth, especially males with their pumped up egos, relish paddling for its physical challenges; the quest for speed, the adrenalin rush of a gnarly hole, the challenge of long crossings. As I age my interests in the qajaq are apparently diverging rather than converging. Initially rolling obsessed but longing for extended kayak camping trips, now I find all elements of the qajaq have captured me.
As my life fills with first world problems, haunted by prior mistakes, the challenges and joys of parenthood, so my qajaq becomes more therapy than sport. The mental benefits outweigh the physical value.
Watching the rhythmic dipping of the paddle’s catch as it propels me around Spring Lake at the break of dawn, with just the water fowl for company, cleanses my thoughts. I barely notice the exhaustion until I see the shore reappear, replete with my lady clad in night shirt clutching a mug of coffee and a smile to welcome me home, reborn.
Winter evenings, spent tools in hand, caressing the timbers into the delicate form and function of a qajaq. Each moment offers an opportunity to immerse myself completely, fully absorbed in the action of hardened steel on wood. Each shaving falling away like the thoughts that had been previously occupying my consciousness.
Rolling, the most completely immersive therapy, is still present in my life as a means of meditation. Impossible to accomplish without commitment, but potentially the greatest therapeutic value. Washing not just the body but the mind too. The pleasures of passing on the art and joy of rolling now provides as much as the act. The culture of the the qajaq, of passing on traditions, ensuring the values and skills remain intact.
Sure, my body improves as I paddle, but the more my interests in the qajaq grow, the greater value and benefit I derive.
We all enter into the sport for different reasons, but what keeps us coming back?