Saturday, 4 August 2012

I'm Back!!

We are defined by what we do, both by choice of occupation and by leisure activities. When there is a sudden restriction placed on our activities, we are affected not just by the lack of a favoured pasttime, but can feel like a large part of our lives, or of our self, is missing. With a long term back injury flaring up earlier in the year, plus some other health issues, it’s been a few months since I’ve been able to get on the water. Wayne, not to be upstaged has just had surgery with the removal of two discs and the fusion of three vertebrae. (He won the race to the neurosurgeon, going from consultation to surgery and then to a follow up visit with the surgeon coming up this week, while I am still waiting on a second appointment for my specialist with some slightly worrying MRI results that left me a number of interesting words to google J). While Wayne’s recovery is going well, and the outcome has been a lot better than we had hoped, it will be some time before he is allowed to do anything too active.
Without my weekly kayak fix I’ve realised just how big a part of my life it has become. My kayak, too long to fit in the garage, has its own room in the house, and has been sitting in silent judgement each time I pass it. While there have been many times I would have loved to go out, the simple inability to lift the kayak has left me spending the last few months pondering the question - just what do non-paddlers do with their time??
Sometimes, it seems that all the planets have aligned for once, and some opportunities cannot be passed up.  When you get a winter’s day that is sunny, pleasant, and with barely a hint of breeze, the call of the kayak just can’t be ignored, combine that with the fact that I actually made it through a week at work without aggravating my back and I just had to give it a shot. Wayne urging me to get out there and managing to sound only a little jealous helped too.

With the wonderfully intelligent street design in our suburb,
 I beat Wayne to the park.
A bit of interesting planning had to go into getting to the water, with both of us limited on lifting (Wayne can’t do any lifting, and I can’t lift anything above about hip height), there is no way we can currently get the boat onto the car’s roof-racks, so alternative plans had to be made. I was able to manoeuvre my boat onto a cart and out of the house, from here I was hoping the walk to the water would be manageable (distance is not too bad, and downhill all the way J). This would allow me to get to the water, but there is no possibility of fitting the cart into the Tahe’s tiny hatches. Solution - my gear was loaded into the car as usual, which gave me less to haul. I then walked my boat through the streets, while Wayne drove down to meet me at a park we used to use as a regular put-in when we lived a little closer to the water. Once I was set to go, the cart went back in the car with Wayne and he would come to meet me again later.
Absolute serenity! A perfect day for a return to the water.
 The moment I dipped my paddle in the water I felt like I had returned home. It was both reassuring and satisfying to feel the paddle finding the perfect angle as it entered and passed through the water, to feel the familiar, comforting rhythm of paddle-stroke and leg drive and to be able to gaze out at the sunlight dancing on the water. I have always loved paddling in winter, on most days you have the water pretty much to yourself and on a calm day, everything seems that little bit crisper and clearer.  With no offence intended to Wayne (he got me into kayaking and we have paddled together for many years) I love paddling alone, there is certainly enjoyment in paddling with the right people, but paddling alone is a very different experience and I enjoy it for so many reasons. Being out there on my own this time gave me a sense of reconnection with the natural world that I love. It is sometimes hard to explain to non-paddlers some of the things I love so much about kayaking. We have spent a lot of time walking lately as an alternative that we are both capable of, and while I love bushwalking and our walks on the amazing beaches we have nearby, as a walker I feel a little more like a spectator. Being in a kayak gives me a much stronger sense of connection, I am not just looking at a scene, I am part of the scene. I have heard it described as bushwalking on water, but I think there is something much stronger, much more personal to kayaking than bushwalking.
Wayne drove onward to surprise me as I passed a jetty shortly after my start,
 on my own after this.

I have found some interesting changes in my paddling since I started in Greenland rolling, I had always felt that kayak guides who insist on rolling during every trip were just showing off, but since spending so much time in the water rolling, sculling and generally having far more fun than you would expect to have just staying in one place, I have discovered that every time I’m paddling I have an overwhelming urge to roll. The water calls to me as I paddle, almost like a partner inviting me to dance and it can sometimes be a hard urge to resist. I realise how much of a disservice I was doing to a number of people over the years – they weren’t really showing off, rolling is just so much fun it’s a constant temptation to simply lean in and dance with the water. I resisted the urge this time, while nowhere near the temperatures our Canadian friends endure, the water is still a bit chillier than I like at this time of year.
About a hundred Cormorants who were occupying a rocky reef,
usually a favourite spot for Pelicans, but it seems to have been invaded.
I spent the next couple of hours being pleasantly reminded of so many of the things I love about kayaking. With no destination set, and knowing I would be nowhere near my former speed, I took the chance to just cruise and enjoy, stopping to take a few photos, or watching the many birds who seemed to have emerged in numbers to enjoy the spectacular day. My company included Ducks, Pelicans, Cormorants, Sea Gulls and Terns, a pair of Sooty Oyster Catchers watched me warily and gave their shrill cry as I paddled past their rocky perch and a pair of Black Swans surprised me as I rounded a small island and found them gliding along on glass smooth water in their own private little retreat. The call of a Whistling Kite drifted across the water, one of my favourite birds, but I had to be content with just its’ voice today as it remained out of sight. It was such an enjoyable day, even the unseasonal appearance of a pair of jetskis failed to annoy me. 
The breeze picked up as I headed back and I got to enjoy a very rare experience for me – a tale-wind (it doesn’t matter what the forecast, or where we are heading, we almost always get headwinds J).  I returned to the put-in feeling pleasantly fatigued, a few muscles reminding me that perhaps I’m a little out of shape, but not feeling too bad. The GPS reading gave me a modest 11.8km, a distance I would previously have scoffed at, but was quite happy with today. I also had the walk back to look forward to – did I mention that the walk to the water had been all downhill? Wayne played shuttle for my trolley and gear again, meeting me at the park once more and I admit to feeling just a little guilty after having so much fun while he can’t paddle, but it was just too good a day to let guilt spoil it.
Ready for the walk home - Uphill all the way :) 
The excitement of being back on the water and the enjoyment of such a perfect day has given me a new drive to get out there again, and nature has worked her magic and left me feeling a lot more positive.  I still have an upcoming appointment with my neurosurgeon, and have to hope for a simpler fix than Wayne’s dramatic surgery, but I intend getting back on the water as much as I can (and I’m sure Wayne will be joining me as soon as he’s allowed J). As they say, ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’ and my time off the water has given me a much stronger appreciation for the many, many magical experiences I have had paddling over the years.
Of course, it hasn’t been all doom and gloom since my last post, we have still had our share of fun and I hope to make amends for my neglect on my blog with a bit of a catch up on some fun events in my next post. For those sitting at home making excuses about the weather, or too tired/lazy/busy – Get Out There! There will be times when you are unable to and you will regret every time you rolled over and slept in on a cold morning instead of getting your kayak fix J.
Some of my companions for the day.


  1. Sorry to hear about the injuries, hope you both recover quickly and are able to return to the water sooner rather than later.

    1. Thanks Sean,still hoping to be in the Hawkesbury this year,although I might be paddling a bit slower, you might beat me this time :)