How I Got Into Kayaking

A few years ago, after watching a video of someone kayaking down the Russian River, I remembered I had wanted to try it for a long time.  So I made up my mind that the next time I went to my favorite camping place, I’d take advantage of the nearby kayak rental and try it out.  Mind you, I’d never taken a class, and didn’t really have a clue what I was doing.

But, I drove to Gualala, and the next morning, my equipment was delivered to my campsite.  The guy who delivered it gave me a quick primer on the equipment, then left.  I carried the kayak down to the water and climbed in.  I spent that whole day paddling upriver, looking over the side (the water in the Gualala is very clear, allowing one to see down about 15 feet (which is the bottom at the deepest parts I’ve seen).  I got close in to the shore, under the trees that grow close to the water, and watched tiny fish maneuver around the roots.  I saw a hawk snatch a fish from the lake.

I loved it.  When I first climbed aboard, I nearly tipped right over, but managed to compensate and stay upright–and that was the last time I’ve ever come even close to tipping on accident.

I say “on accident,” because the next year, I took a course on kayaking, and that required me to tip myself over and climb back on.  Those are the only times I’ve actually fallen overboard.  As to the class itself, I have to say I didn’t learn a lot from it beyond what I’d already figured out by trial and error on my own, though I did learn a couple of useful things.

The big thing is that you don’t steer with your arms–in fact, kayaking is in general a whole-body workout. Steering is done by planting your paddle into the water and moving the boat with your legs–it sounds weird, but once you start doing it, you get used to it pretty quickly.

I won’t be riding any rapids anytime soon, and I’m not ready yet for ocean kayaking (though I look forward to it someday), but for exploring a river or lake, there’s little as amazing as a kayak for exploring wildlife spaces.

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About Michael Johnston

Father of a third grader, high school English teacher, writer. Forty-three years old and feeling almost every bit of it on some days, and not a bit of it on others. Based in Sacramento, California, USA
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