Thursday, August 11, 2011

Kayaking 101

Last month, while visiting Okaloosa Island, Florida, my daughter decided we should take the girls and go kayaking. I encouraged them to rent a Kayak and go to Crab Island, a huge sand bar between Ft. Walton Beach and Destin. They had a fabulous time paddling over to the sand bar and catching hermit crabs and playing in the fabulously clear shallow water. It is an amazing place.
They were so excited about the fun they were having that they came back to get me and insisted that I join them in kayaking over to the island.

I was really hesitant to get in a kayak because of an experience I had several years ago while vacationing in Savannah. My husband and I visited a water sports store one afternoon, and there was a flyer posted about a "free rental" of a kayak to try it out and see how you liked it. We decided to give it a try and made an appointment to meet the people in Brunswick for a trial run.

It was a lovely, sunny April morning when we arrived at the docks in Brunswick for our introduction to kayaking. It was a little cool, and I had dressed warmly in jeans, two shirts, socks and sneakers. We were outfitted immediately in large "May West" type life jackets. Then we were shown assorted kayaks that were displayed along the entire length of the dock. My hubby went off to try one on, and I picked one that looked appealing to me. I am a tall (5'10") woman, and I was a little worried about fitting into the kayak. I stood in the small, narrow craft and lowered my body down into the hole for seating. I was surprised at how roomy the boat actually was.

My pleasure was short-lived however when I tried to get up out of the kayak. I tried to bend my knees up and stand, but my legs were so long that I could not bend them to get out of the hole. No matter how I tried, I couldn't seem to extricate myself from the boat. I finally had to turn the thing over on its side and wriggle out like a worm. And that was just the beginning of a humiliating day.

I had someone tell me after getting out of the kayak that you needed to "measure" the opening and choose a kayak according to the length of your legs. Would have been nice to know that before I got into one. But, after a little reassurance, I climbed down the dock ladder and entered a kayak which was more suited to my size.
I paddled around for about 15 minutes in the backwater at Brunswick, before heading back to the dock to meet my husband. We wanted to try a ride on top kayak for two.

I exited my kayak and climbed up onto the dock while my husband and the employees picked out a kayak for us to use. Kevin got into the kayak at the end of the dock before I did, and held out his hand to assist me into the front of the boat. I don't know if you have ever seen one of those things, but they really don't have "sides" to hold onto or anything. The tide had gone out and the top of the dock was several feet from the water. As I stepped down off the dock and put one foot into the kayak, my husband said, "Just reach back and grab the side and sit down." That was a lot easier said than done. As I went to reach for the side, I lost my balance and went headlong into the bay!

As I said previously, I was dressed for the cool air, but the water was even colder. I had on a hat, sunglasses and all as I tumbled into the drink. Funny thing is, the hat and glasses stayed on as I bobbed around in the May West. I am a good swimmer, and besides I had on a vest, so drowning was the least of my worries. I was worried about just how I was going to get back up onto the dock in all my clothes with no ladder to assist. Just as I was feeling most embarrassed a handsome young man came paddling over and offered to assist me....aauuuggghhh. I politely declined his offer and swam over to the dock.

I knew if I was ever going to be able to get out of the water I needed to shed my heavy shoes and the hat and glasses. I pulled them all off and threw them up on the dock where a 100 pound girl employee was running up and down saying, "Just grab my hand and I'll help you out." I could just see me grabbing her hand and pulling her into the water with me. "No thanks," I declined politely. "I'll figure it out."
I managed to lean to one side and throw one leg around one of the dock supports. I then pulled my self up with some difficulty, looking like a drowned rat. I lay on the dock for a few minutes to regain my composure before lifting my dripping body and heading for the building to shed my vest.

That was one humiliating day for sure. I was a shivering mess and ready to head home. I hadn't gotten into a kayak since then.

So, you can understand why I might not want to get into another kayak when the girls were pleading for me to join them. I finally relented, however, and we actually had a wonderful time paddling over the the island. We got lunch at the little floating restaurant before paddling back to return the kayaks. I am glad my daughter talked me into getting back into the boat, as we had a wonderful time, and created some great memories.

So, a few things to remember if you are going kayaking:
1. They are very tippy
2. Wear a life jacket
3. Make sure if it is not a ride on top, you measure to make sure your legs
will not make you a prisoner!
4. Have fun!

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