Wednesday, October 13, 2010

More vs. Less

There's a lot of stuff that you can get to enhance your paddling experience. It's true in most outdoor pursuits, and I imagine for enthusiasts of nearly any variety. I'd gotten to this point where I never paddled without the essential safety gear, maps, guide books, flora and fauna guides, binoculars, food, and so on. I didn't get too involved in it (like with GPS and all the other gear you can get) but I did find that I was feeling a bit bogged down by it all. It just seemed burdensome to need to make two or more trips to the car to get everything whenever I wanted to paddle for a while.

Simplicity is one of the things I think we're all looking for when we venture outdoors. We want a basic connection to the visceral existence that we know pre-existed our comfortable, air-conditioned, gore-texed, wrapped in plastic present. I think we need it at a genetic level. This had always been one of my favorite features of surfing, one that I would pontificate about if someone asked me. That is, surfing is an amazingly complicated synthesis of balance, speed, finesse, wave knowledge, timing, placement, weight distribution, trim, but requires so little in the way of equipment. A person, a board, some wax, and a wave. That's it. Body surfing is even more pure in this sense. Man and wave. Yet, there is a great gulf between those who merely do it, and those who do it with grace and skill. In the end, it's not the stuff; it's the man (or woman, I'm using "man" in that ungendered human being sense). Aimee just proofread this and suggested that it could sound like I"m suggesting that I'm skilled and graceful. That's not my intention, and so, with both skill and grace, I hereby proclaim the baseness of my skills. Someday I may achieve hard won grace.

I've long appreciated this about surfing, so I don't know why I got caught up in the "stuff" of kayaking, but I've recently decided to slough some of it off. Perhaps not permanently, or all the time, but most of the time. The last three trips I've taken (the last three consecutive Wednesdays) have all been familiar. I've paddled them at least once before. It's so much nicer to just pull up to the launch, drop the boat by the water, grab PFD, paddle, hat, and safety gear (bilge pump and paddle float) and go. No two or more trips to the car. Just get in the boat with the required stuff and go do what I'm really there for, which is commune with the world. Observe.

Today I sat in the middle of a school of tiny fish, a pod of dolphin 5 or 6 strong fed on whatever was feeding on the minnows, terns plummeted, and 3 manatees surfaced repeatedly mere feet away from me. That's why I'm out there.


Sunday, October 3, 2010

Corporate Cup Challenge

The Great Bike Shop submitted a team to the Corporate Cup Challenge yesterday (local race to promote wellness in the office). Teams consisted of 4 people and four events (one per participant); kayak, bike, run, and strength. I did the kayak event; my first kayak race ever.

Rick from The Wilderness Way was there running the event, which used their boats (had to be shorter than 13'). I came in second in my heat, and fifth overall. The guy who won I know by reputation. I've never paddled with him before, but I have paddled with a pal of his and I found his regular pace to be my fast pace, so he won by almost a minute. They guy who beat me in my heat just out-muscled me. If the course had been longer I think I would have had him, but he was some kind of fitness trainer and stayed about a boat length ahead of me. JC got second in the bike and our runner got third in the run overall. No results yet but I think we're in good standing to place top three.

Attempted to hike to Shepherd Spring today, but had no map and ended up turning back a little short. Oh well, still a beautiful morning to be outside. Cheers.