October 23 is an important day for me. Firstly, it is my fantastic father’s birthday, and it is a big one. Although I’ve said it before — he’s still a 35-year-old in my mind’s eye. But I told my mom that if she’s planning a birthday party for dad, she better plan to have it before his birthday, because on that day, I’ll be embarking on the most physical challenge of my life. A big bunch of us will be shoving off from Rotary Park on the morning of the 23rd of October in kayaks on a mission to paddle our way to the Gulf of Mexico. More about that later…
I got into a kayak for the first time on the evening of April 28th, 2010. Keep in mind, this is after I had committed to do this two-week kayak expedition in October. I am not a great swimmer (I could save myself in a pinch), I’m epically claustrophobic and I don’t have great balance (probably because I’m a little top-heavy). These three liabilities would seem to fly in the face of reason for choosing kayaking as an activity. I’ve chosen to do this as an visible, physical symbol of my intentions of beating cancer. I’m paddling, Jill and I are regulars at the new John Thayer YMCA, I’m eating right and I’ve learned how to safely execute a wet exit from a overturned kayak.
Let me tell what I have learned about kayaking. First of all, it is a blast! Imagine floating along under the light of a full moon with a group of friends. It is quiet, except for the sounds of wildlife and the sultry slurp of paddle strokes. The best way to see nature is in a kayak. The other thing you need to know is that there are many, many decisions to make if you want to take up the hobby. Here are a few: sit-on-top or sit-in kayak, length of the kayak, type of personal flotation device, what kind of paddling you’ll be doing, types of paddling clothing to consider and ways to transport your boat to the ramp — just to name a few. The one big decision I didn’t mention here is your choice of paddle. On a trip like the one I’ll be going on this fall, the choice of a paddle will likely be my most critical decision. Here’s why: An active sea kayaker will execute between 2,000 and 4,000 strokes per hour. If a paddler puts in an 8-hour paddling day, those numbers will yield a total of 16,000 – 32,000 strokes.
There are paddles make with wood, aluminum or fiberglass that can weigh up to 40 ounces. Then, there are those gorgeous, sleek, perfectly weighted paddles made out of carbon fiber. The Epic Relaxed Touring paddle weighs in at an incredible 22 ounces. Imagine the difference between swinging 22 ounces and hefting 40 ounces over the course of an 8-hour paddling day in the midst of a two-week, 265-mile river adventure! The paddle, which I don’t yet own, will be the subject of future posts to this blog. By the way, there are even more decisions to be made just concerning the paddle. Straight shaft or bent, what weight, what material and what length?
My point here is to do your research. Access the Chattahoochee Paddling Club’s Yahoo Group page: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ChattahoocheePaddlingClub/ and request to join so you can see the high level at which local paddlers communicate and recreate with each other. There is a lot more coming on this blog at we approach our departure date in October. Come back often!