25 October 2009

Kayakking - everything is different

When I came back from Portugal I found a letter of welcome from the kayak club, and a membership pass. Most of the letter was dedicated to rules and regulations. Nevertheless, I decided to have my debut at the first opportunity. Saturday!
There was going to be a "recreational kayak trip". That sounded modest. And one should leave something to look forward to, so this sounded like a good start. I showed up in good time. I was cordially welcomed into the very well-organised and well-equipped club. What a difference! I could have known. But my brain can't keep up with all the differences.
As I had never touched a river kayak before I decided to try one.

I launched myself, and faffed around for a bit, getting familiar with the kayak. Impossible! These river things go all over the place. A stroke on the right and you swerve off to the left, a stroke on the left and you swerve off to the right.
We launched ourselves among the other equiment of the water sports centre
There was a very stiff breeze, and at sea in front of the town there was a rowing competition going on, so we decided to in the opposite direction: up the river. And that sounds boring, but we went with the wind in our back, and that means that the wind and the waves continuously take the bum of your kayak and twist it off course. I ended up making a few strokes and then having to break, as by propelling myself I could no longer correct for the wind-induced veering off of my vessel. It's a tiring way of kayakking. But somhow tagged along.
The 19th-century, autumnal surroundings provided a fine decor
We went up to Saltram Park, and decided to turn, and to have a break on a nearby beach. It was one where many people go to let their dogs play in the water, so before long we were encircled by exhilirated dogs that flew past, over, and through our kayaks. Many people conjured jars of homemade delicacies out of the minute storage space of the river kayaks (strangely enough most people had chosen these, though sea kayaks were avaliable as well, which probably means one quickly gets the hang of it) and started to offer them to their fellow leisuremen.
People stretching their legs during the break. The gentleman who can be seen still sitting in his kayak has no need for such trivialities: he does not possess legs.

Of course this beach had its own shipwreck. In spite of their exaggerated level of organisedness the English do not bother to clear their waters of wrecks. Every beach seems to need to have at least one, and some have countless many; I should one day make a trip along a whole bunch of them and make a picture documentary...

Kayakking against the wind was much easier! It is not such an issue to go straight. This made it also easier to chat up with people; with the wind in the back I was a difficult conversation partner as I lurched into all kinds of unforeseen directions all the time, and that was solved now. It's a nice bunch of chatty people! There was no adventure in this trip, but it was much more social than any trip I'd ever done in Norway.
Wrestling against the wind does take quite some power, of course, but that was taken into account: we went onto a nearby lake for yet another break. The stock of homebaked flapjacks, brownies and whatnots turned out not to even nearly have been exhausted. The ladies decided to play a prank on me, and tried to convince me I had to do the "Club's swimming test". To their disappointment I did not buy it for a second. The sun had come out in the meantime, and it was a good day!
After the second break we went back to where we had started, but decided to go a bit further still, and peek around the corner of the breakwater, to check how hostile the sea really was, and if we could get a bit of a view on the rowing race. But the sea was fairly hostile and the boats sped past in the distance, so we turned. For a last time I had to cope with the games wind and waves played with me, and then we were back.
I had thought of bringing my dry suit, and a book, and my camera, but I had not thought of the possibilities of things like showers, so I just took the suit off and went, still damp and smelly, to the pub belonging to the water sports centre. Of course I was the first. Soon, however, others showed up, and I spent quite a while chatting up to all sorts of lovely people that I otherwise would not have met. I think I can get used to this!
Somewhere soon I also want to try whitewatering. The club expects people to be able to transport their own material, so as long as I don't have a car that might prove a challenge, but I'll see what I can do. To be continued!

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