Living the Paddling Lifestyle
In the 1991 film Dead Again Robin Williams plays an ex-shrink. In his first scene he says “Someone’s ether a smoker or nonsmoker. There’s no in between. The trick is to find out which one you are and be that.” This line’s stuck in my head since I saw it in the theaters. Not because I am a smoker but because of the definitiveness of it. Luckily when it comes to picking a paddling discipline we don’t have to be quite so absolute, but sometimes we forget this, and sometimes we want to be the paddler we think we should be rather then the paddler we like being.
I’ve met a lot of people in the past few years that are searching for their inner paddler. In many cases they look up to instructors, leaders in their local paddling community or friends, but very often they forget to look at themselves. When at kayak symposiums or club outings they see others and think about someone’s great paddling form, or how well they roll. They may daydream about exotic trips and becoming an expedition kayaker. What’s being overlooked is how others got to that level. Just as often they don’t realize a slight change in their paddling behavior can make all of the difference in the world. I have seen people paddle for years at a recreational level and as soon they decide to kick it into high gear their skill level goes through the roof.
Every time I go kayaking I work on my skills. My objective is to become a better technical paddler, coach and instructor. I still love to go on trips and explore, but at the moment messing about in boats is about working on technique. This “technical paddler” is my current inner paddler. Something else that helps me with this is watching other paddlers. Watching people helps me see different styles and define my own. I’m able to learn from their experiences and decide what I want to try next. Kayaking is so diversified, and personal that we can change our style over and over again and never get borded. I have learned there’s no one way to do anything in kayaking, just as well as in life. There are tried and true techniques and safe practices, but new stroke combinations and techniques are being discovered everyday by people like you and I who love to spend time on the water playing with our kayaks, canoes, SUPs or whatever water toy strikes our fancy.
I am a multi discipline paddler. One day I would like to go on grand expeditions, and put miles upon miles behind me in the course of a day. I would like to become an expert at Greenland rolls, and when I slow down advance to bird watching lily dipping trips in a big fat comfy recreational kayak. It’s easy to look at other kayakers and think that they’re better at rolling, or at putting in the miles, but when the time comes for me to become an expert at traditional skills I’ll do that rather than playing in the surf. After my kids are a little older and I can take a few weeks to kayak the fjords of Norway I’ll concentrate on putting in the miles. I know I have to pick one thing at a time to prioritize when I get a chance to go out. Until my next change of discipline I just love to paddle and in the words of a good friend, “give me a log and I’ll paddle it”.
When trying to find your inner paddler, don’t be disappointed if you haven’t mastered every type of paddling, put in twenty miles every time you go kayaking or wish you were a better kayak surfer, if counting birds gets you on the water. Remember the Robin Williams quote “The trick is to find out which one you are and be that” and if I might add, be happy with it.
The first time I remember going paddling, I sat with my sister in the middle of a 17’ aluminum canoe between my parents. We were on a narrow strip of flat water with lush green trees, and dark foreboding water. My sister and I shared a paddle and spent the time grabbing it from each other and dragging it next to the boat. I don’t know if this is actually the first time I went paddling, but it’s the memory stuck in my head and I cherish it. As the years went by my sister and I became accomplished recreational canoeist, and I consider those early experiences the basis for my love for all types of paddling.
I got my first job as a sea kayak guide in 2001 on Orcas Island in Washington State. For the next year and a half I paddled constantly. When I wasn’t kayaking for work, I was kayaking for relaxation or fun. This was when I started living the kayaking lifestyle and I’ve been chasing that life ever since. After Orcas I traveled with the seasons, learning the styles, techniques and philosophies of paddlers all over the US. I have been lucky enough to have been a sea kayak guide in Maui HI, Yellowstone National Park WY, Jupiter FL, and in the winter of 2005/2006 I started Hidden Reef Eco-Tours on the Island of St. John in the US Virgin Islands.
Last year two major events happened in my paddling carrier. I received my American Canoe Association (ACA) level four (L4) Open Water Coastal Kayaking instructor certification and Paddle NC was awarded the paddling concession for both Carolina Beach State Park (next to Wilmington NC) and Hammocks Beach State Park (in Swansboro next to Emerald Isle NC). With the opening of Paddle NC and the launching of this new web site I want to share with you some paddling thoughts, philosophies and truly incredible adventures. I hope this sparks some good discussions from you in the process and helps you enjoy, as much as I do, living the paddling lifestyle.