This week I learned I really suck at kayaking. I also learned that you can be pushed off of the top of a bridge while sitting in a kayak and live to tell the tale.
Our program director signed us up for a group kayaking excursion. We would be kayaking down the Eglinton Canal — the same canal our documentary class is attempting to clean up. While I have canoed on Lake Matoaka many times, it occurred to me that I had never taken out a kayak. But I incorrectly assumed it would be easy.
We arrived at the boathouse where we were fitted for kayaks. I thought the first kayak was the perfect fit, but one of the instructors thought it was too big. However, I somehow ended up in a kayak much bigger than the original. Another instructor assured me that it would be fine.
Once down in the canal, I realized that the kayak was not going to work. As a petite person, my arm length is similar to that of a T-Rex. Manuveuring the paddle from the left to the right quickly enough was too much of a struggle in a big kayak. A pattern quickly emerged — left, right, spin in a circle, left, right, crash into canal wall.
Slowly but surely I made my way to a bridge where they told us we would be getting out. They hoisted our kayaks out of the water and we climbed out to where there was a bridge. One by one, we dropped off the bridge. I enjoyed that part because, as expressed in my last blog, I enjoy jumping off of things. But I never could have guessed what we were going to do next.
There’s a little voice you get in your head that tells you, “This is a bad idea. Don’t do it.” As a kid, my parents told me to always listen to that basic instinct. Well, that’s the voice that popped into my head when they told us we would be doing “kayak launches.” A kayak launch is where the kayak instructor holds your kayak on the top of the railing on the bridge while you climb into it. Then, they push you off of the top of the bridge into the canal while you are sitting in your kayak. After I was finally convinced that they were not making a joke, I decided I was going to do it.
While terrifying, the kayak launch was one of the most unique experiences I’ve had in my life. That’s what I love about travel. I never would have thought before this trip that I would be pushed off the top of a bridge in a kayak and not wet my pants in the process. But, we all did the launch without wetting our pants. It was so incredibly cool.
After getting back into the canal, the current was strong because we were now paddling upstream. After continuing the “left, right, spin in a circle, left, right, crash into a wall” pattern for too long, I had to do the thing that signals you are a failure at kayaking — I had to be tethered to the kayak instructor. Even with that help I fell out of the kayak. At one point, I was tethered to one instructor’s kayak while another instructor held his kayak to mine so I would stop spinning.
At first, I was pretty mortified to be struggling so hard in front of my friends. I might not always be the best at everything I do, but I had never before been the absolute worst. But then I realized the entire situation was actually hilarious. The rest of the group was hysterically laughing and if I had their view I would have been laughing too. I decided to join in. It was pretty damn funny. I knew it wasn’t my fault that I had been given a kayak that was too large, so why not have a good time in the situation?
The trip back to the boathouse was a struggle. People were falling out of their kayaks left and right. After the kayak instructors had delivered me to a safe place and told me to stay, I decided to try to continue to make it to the boathouse. Then I fell out again and we had to start the process all over again. Eventually, while tethered, I made it back to the boathouse. One of the guys in my group told me that the best parts of the day were the kayak launch and seeing me essentially put on a leash to get home. I had to agree with him.
I also could have been embarrassed to be around the kayak instructors after the whole debacle. However, we ended up going out with the guys that night and had a great time laughing about whole experience.
I actually learned a lot that day. Things in life aren’t always going to be easy. You’re not always going to succeed at the things you do. But as long as you have someone to tether yourself to when times are too tough to go it alone and good friends to laugh with along the way, you will make it back to the boathouse.