I recently bought two kayaks for me and the kids. I’m really into horses, and I would happily spend every waking hour at the barn, but neither of my kids is interested in the slightest. I have the only 9 year old girl in the world who turned down a pony. (So I bought myself one, but that’s another story.) Since my kids aren’t into horses and we can’t go camping every single weekend, I wanted another activity that would get us outdoors and active. Cue the kayaks.
I grew up on an island, so being on the water is second nature for me. I’ve only kayaked a few times though, mostly on vacation. I used to surf when I lived in my hometown, but I haven’t done it in years. As soon as I plopped my butt in that kayak, pushed away from the shore and took that first paddle stroke, it was like coming home. You don’t realize how much you miss something until you do it again and remember how good it feels. I’ve missed being on the water.
I’ve always liked individual sports and activities where I’m riding something, especially horses. I love going faster than I can go with my own two legs. Cantering on my horse and dropping into a wave on a surfboard give me a feeling of elation, a freedom of movement that’s hard to describe. When I’m on my horse, I can feel 1,200 lbs of muscle underneath me, running faster and jumping higher than I ever could.
On a wave, I’m gliding across the surface of an ever-changing liquid mass as it undulates and swells beneath me. When I hit the end, I swing my board around in a graceful arc toward the open ocean and let myself sink down into the back side. The horse and the wave freeze time for me. It’s complete concentration, full-on in the moment living. Everything else melts away.
Kayaking on the calm lake by my house doesn’t provide the rush that surfing did, but it’s peaceful. I love the way the kayak glides across the water, so light and smooth. I like using my paddles to swing it around in an arc, like I used to do with by upper body on my surfboard. On windy days I like the way the bow slaps down on the water as we go over the little swells that barely count as waves. I like the wind in my hair and dangling my legs overboard when I get hot. I can watch the sunset from the kayak while drinking from an adult sippy cup full of red wine. Can’t do that on the horse.
My kids love the kayaks. We live two minutes from the lake, so it’s easy to pack a little cooler, toss the kayaks in the pickup truck and head for the water. They beg to go kayaking, while they used to beg me NOT to make them go to the barn.
My little local lake isn’t the Atlantic, but it’s all I’ve got, and it’s pretty good. I remember when I lived at the beach walking out of the shorebreak onto land, surfboard tucked under my arm, sunburnt and exhausted, and happy. So happy. Hopefully my kids will remember the bright sun glinting on the surface of the lake while they paddle out to the deep water, jump off the kayaks and haul themselves back in. They’ll remember their tan, tired arms reaching for a drink in the little cooler that rides on the back of my kayak. Most importantly, they’ll remember being happy and being outside, and when they’re grown and away from me and dealing with the inevitable struggles of life, they’ll think back to when they were happy, and they’ll go outside.