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.


1 comment:

  1. Great reflective piece. I enjoyed it. You could argue that one's need to obtain stuff in pursuit of participating in an activity is based partly on a desire to become knowledgeable and absorb as much as you can about that activity and the experience of experiencing it. Yet as you become more experienced and knowledgeable the less you need to participate. I remember when you once told me that when you first started surfing you bought about every surf magazine that came out, but you became more comfortable, aware, and knowledgeable about surfing and your place within the spectrum of surfing the less you depended on magazines for helping you reach that place. Or like Elias said in Platoon, "You’re humping too much stuff troop."