Jul. 12th, 2017 01:02 pm
ironymaiden: (Seattle)
[personal profile] ironymaiden
i've been longing to be on/in/near water recently. i live within a few minutes' walk of a public launch and i see people out enjoying the water, coming and going, literally walking from their house towing their kayak on little wheels. waaaaant.

after chatting with [personal profile] philotera (who has been kayaking for a few years now), i signed up for a kayak class to not-so-metaphorically get my feet wet. i was looking to get some paddling technique training, and see how it all felt vs canoeing. would being so low in the water be scary? would my legs go to sleep? would the paddling exhaust me?

oh, i liked it. pretty much all of it.

i ended up in a women-only class because that was what had a seat open. as far as i could tell there were no mechanical modifications, but we did have a frank discussion of fitting PFDs (personal flotation device, aka lifejacket) around boobs. in general, thumbs up to REI: i thought that i got good value for money and there were two instructors for ten students. i got plenty of attention.

this was also my first visit to Sail Sand Point. i am always hit by how big Magnuson Park is, it contains multitudes (shouldn't be a surprise since it's a converted military base). it was a beautiful day and still not-busy compared to Lake Union and the ship canal. often i forget about the remarkably nice facilities in Seattle parks. frex, there's a parks-run public restroom with a changing area and showers.

what we did:
the class started on land with an intro to the kayaks: naming the parts and their functions, where to put your stuff, how to sit and get in and out, how to adjust the seat and the foot rests, how to safely exit in case of a "water opportunity". surprises for me: the seating position is with your knees bent and apart like a frog, creating five points of contact inside the cockpit. so i discovered that legroom wasn't an issue like i feared, but also that my size combined with the kayak meant that i felt really securely seated in the cockpit and that the boat was an extension of my body. when a "water opportunity" happens, you want to a) protect your head b) get a big breath and c) fall out of the boat so that you can swim and get your head out of the water. they were great with showing me the mechanics of popping out when your legs are long and your hips and thighs are wide. (we had one tiny instructor and one amazonian instructor, which i hope was intentional and was especially awesome for me. boo, i should have mentioned that in my course evaluation.) we got advice on sunscreen - get the underside of your nose and under the chin to beat the light reflected from the water - and then we learned which way was up with our paddles and practiced the basic forward stroke while standing in a circle. then we got into our PFDs and learned how adjust them and to check for a good fit, and we were off.

we carried the kayaks out of the storage area and launched from a pebbled shore. for our first entrance we had a partner sit on the stern to stabilize while we got in. (the kayaks were singles designed for sea touring, with bulkheads. that meant that they had air pockets that would keep them extra buoyant in case of a capsize.) that was the beginning of the "you will get wet" and "don't take anything you wouldn't put in a bathtub" portion of the experience, since one had to wade into knee depth to enter the cockpit. (the only times i got really wet were on entrance and exit, otherwise there was just the occasional dribble via my paddle.)

early on, i was concerned. i felt really ungainly and like i was struggling. (later i found out that we were in high wind and wave conditions for the area and even the instructors were fighting the wind.) they taught us forward and back sweeps for turning and a little on back-paddling and coached us on form (you keep your elbows bent and an open box in front of your body). it helped that the kayaks were bumper-car sturdy and able to float in as little as seven inches of water. so even when i couldn't seem to steer away from a floating log and a tire (?!?) i could run over them without getting hung up. we did raft up intentionally, but we did also unintentionally bang into each other as we learned how to maneuver.

everything clicked for me when they showed us how to combine the forward and back sweep to do a truly sharp turn. it is, of all things, mechanically similar to a kung fu drill that i love. so that was the moment when i felt like the boat really was part of me and not something that i was fighting. with that and some more technique coaching, it was on.

then we took a break on land (coming in, i got turned parallel to shore instead of perpendicular and while i didn't capsize i got a good wave in the cockpit for my trouble) and talked more about dressing for weather conditions (you can wear wool sweaters!) and worked through how to (not remembering the correct stroke name) move sideways to parallel park. while we were out, the wind died down.

losing the wind was magical. between having practiced and now having no resistance to motion, the second trip felt so easy.

we launched again, practiced our new stroke, and enjoyed some plain old wandering around the lake. i asked for some drills, they sent me to figure-eight around a buoy, i tried going fast, i tested out one of the instructors' all carbon-fiber paddles with a bent grip (dreamy). they positioned us for a stunning view of Mt. Rainier and talked about the places to visit around the north end of the lake. i intended to take my (waterproof) phone along on the second half to take pictures but i totally forgot. i'll just have to go back.

compared to canoeing, i felt more secure and stable in the kayak. i also liked being able to have a conversation with other folks and see their faces, unlike the canoe experience of never seeing the face of the person in the boat with you. even when the wind was up, it was quiet on the water.

next steps: clock more time on the local lakes. take the rescue and recovery or touring class before attempting the Sound. the hard part is that we're not supposed to go out alone, and that makes perfect sense. it just means that i need to figure the company part out. fortunately there are lots of places to rent kayaks, so i don't have to buy or store bulky equipment. yet.


at the end of it all, i came home and realized that i had lived for years near a lazy river (and while growing up near fast-flowing but not-rough creeks) and could have been paddling nearly year-round. where i grew up, the word kayak meant whitewater and helmets and eskimo rolls.* oh well.

my legs did not go to sleep. nor was i crippled with pain the next day, although i definitely felt the work in my abs and i had a little sunburn on the backs of my shoulders.

i'm dreaming of boat-in camping now. but that means getting C on board. (and probably going without Leela, which makes me sad...okay, i was trying to figure out if she could sit between my legs as long as i skipped a spray skirt.)

*and perhaps if i had grown up here i would have thought of kayaking as waves and drysuits and hypothermia, rather than puttering about in a lake.

Date: 2017-07-12 08:37 pm (UTC)
peartreealley: (Default)
From: [personal profile] peartreealley
This is lovely.

G is a keen canoeist, though I am less so.

Date: 2017-07-12 11:49 pm (UTC)
ivy: Two strands of ivy against a red wall (Default)
From: [personal profile] ivy
Tandem kayaks get called divorce boats too. Sometimes your own boat is best!

Date: 2017-07-12 08:46 pm (UTC)
sistawendy: (wtf laughing)
From: [personal profile] sistawendy
Ah, I remember kayaking. I haven't done any in ages. I used to avail myself of the cheap rentals as a UW student. It hadn't occurred to me that I could take a class through REI, though. That's an excellent idea.

Date: 2017-07-12 09:48 pm (UTC)
sleepybadger: (Default)
From: [personal profile] sleepybadger
That sounds wonderful! I've only been kayaking and canoeing a handful of times, but I always enjoyed it when I did. A class was an awesome idea!

Date: 2017-07-12 11:53 pm (UTC)
ivy: Two strands of ivy against a red wall (Default)
From: [personal profile] ivy
Yay! Glad you had such a fantastic class; that sounds wonderful!

Date: 2017-07-16 07:10 pm (UTC)
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)
From: [personal profile] alatefeline
Wandered over her via a mutual acquaintance's blog. You have now convinced me I need to go kayaking. *grins*


ironymaiden: (Default)

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