Almost every part of my body is sore from overuse or bruising... Why?
A good friend of ours gave us a family membership to the Yakkity Yak club as a thank-you present about 9 months ago. As part of the package a weekend course on Sea Kayaking was included. We have been so busy over the last 6 months that up until now we hadn't booked ourselves onto the course. As we had nothing yet planned for the weekend it was time to bite the bullet and actually do this thing... after all, it would be a shame for the membership to run out without us completing it.
Tom has a sea kayak and uses it on a regular basis so he was looking forward to the possibility of rolling while I was along for the ride, figuring a lot of what we'd learn would be applicable to our sit on tops.
Saturday morning arrived with us on time at the pool and ready to get wet. There were 8 people on the course in total so 4 kayaks were unloaded and taken down to the pool. We were to pair up and take turns in the kayak. Tom, being the gentleman he is, let me take my turn in the kayak first. I slipped off the edge on the pool and into a kayak, sealed the cockpit with the skirt and braced myself for whatever was about to happen next.
The instructor, Andy, called for a volunteer to act as the demonstration model. I took a look around and as no-one was looking likely I thought perhaps it was best to volunteer and get it over with. Before I could open my mouth my kayak jerked forward, a strange voice coming from behind... "Pick me!! Pick me!!" ... thanks Tommy!! So I floated forward and the lesson began.
The first steps involved building confidence in and under the water whilst still in the kayak. Andy would talk us through it, demonstrate what was going to happen using the test model (me!), then one by one each person gave it a go while their partner was there to help flip the kayak over for the exercise and pull it back upright again. The routine involved turning 90 degrees to get one ear wet, then 180 degrees under water and back up again. Next came a series of exercises to help orientate ourselves upside down and under water. The first was to bang loudly three times on the bottom of the kayak (while upside down). This was also a signal for help!! Then a series of exercises banging a couple of times on the bottom to the front and back of the boat back to three times in the middle to signal help... or..."get me upright!!". Then to the front right, front left, back right, back left - Andy called this "the hula". Then finally a wet exit, basically getting out of the kayak while it was capsized.... cool... I was good at this!!
We swapped over so our partner's could go through the routine as well... revenge is mine... bwahahahaaa!! Nah, not really, the last thing I wanted was to be responsible for drowning my Tommy in a pool!!
Next on the agenda was learning various rescues, self recoveries - where you basically got yourself back into the kayak, and assisted recoveries - where another kayaker would help empty and stabilise your kayak for re-entry.
The first self rescue was called "The John Wayne" and involved heaving yourself over the stern of the kayak, swinging a leg over to straddle it and, keeping a low profile, scoot yourself forward, riding the kayak until you were over the cockpit, slipping your bum down into the seat then "folding" your legs one by one into the cockpit. I think this is the move responsible for most of the bruising on my inner thighs... ouch! We also learnt self rescues using a float on one end of the paddle so the paddle could act an outrigger for stability and at the same time also act as a ladder to hook your leg onto to get you back up into the kayak.
The assisted rescues were a piece of cake in comparison but we tried a couple of variations and took turns at being the rescuer and rescuee. At this point I felt as though we'd learnt a lot to help even with the sit on tops and in particular the self resue with the paddle float will be a skill that will transfer should I ever need it.
We clambered out of the pool, helped put the lane markers and covers back, and changed into dry clothes. Once the kayaks were all loaded up onto the trailer everyone headed back to the shop for lunch and some discussion on the types of things you should have with you for a day trip.
Fed and rehydrated, it was time to learn the next skill set down at Lake Pupuke. It was here we learnt different paddle strokes. First off we learnt how to paddle sideways, not quite what I expected, I'd have thought that going forward might have been first!! Still, as we would be rafting up together to watch new techniques at different points during the lake session this was going to be an important stroke. It was a bit windy where we put in and it was hard to tell whether we were doing this properly because we were being blown about. We set off across the lake for a more sheltered spot. Paddling forward with seems pretty straight forward but Andy spent time to ensure we new which muscles should be engaging at the different parts of the stroke, pushing (or punching) the top arm forward rather than pulling the bottom arm back, a subtle difference but it makes paddling less of an effort. He also checked our form as we set off and then had us turn around and paddle backwards for a stretch. Once we were more sheltered we practiced using the sideways stroke... it's a cool movement and not dissimilar to a belly dance move... I almost went into a trance doing this!
Time to raft up... and put this stroke into a real situation. I edged sideways towards the next person, wow, this worked a treat, I was doing it! Then .... whoops, my bad! I thought I was close enough so I reached across to the next kayak, stretch... strrreeetcchhh.... just..a..little...more..... SPLASH!! Ha, I was in... and out!! I popped out from under my kayak to see everyone looking at me!! Ha! At least I knew how to get back in!! Andy came over to assist me by stabilising my kayak and I clambered back into the cockpit without any problems... the lesson resumed...
Next we learnt how to turn using sweep strokes from the front of the kayak, and then make tighter turns by combining a sweep from the back of the kayak... I really enjoyed these moves, it was almost balletic and again, done over and over, something that could set you into a trance.
Time to learn bracing... this involved edging the kayak.... leaning so the water came up the side of the kayak, and push the paddle down ward to help spring back upright. We started small, only going over a little way. As I got the hang of this I started leaning further and further, closer to the point of no return. it was a bit freaky to have the sensation of tipping and react quickly enough, in the right way, to push back up again. As I practised, pushing over further and further, the water got closer to my spray skirt, and then up over it and yet I recovered. Wooohooo!! Yeah, this was cool. I transfered to the other side to try that. I must have been a bit over confident because the first time over in the right and.... SPLASH!!! I was in again!! Oh well, at least I was getting in some additional rescue training!! Might as well get our money's worth... at least that's what I told myself!
So enough of that.... We learnt how to stop next and after a game of chicken to test it out Andy showed us how to use our paddle as a rudder - something we'd need to know in the surf. This was tried out on the way back to the shore buy getting up some speed and then flicking our paddle back to steer while the momentum died off.
Back at the shore we loaded up the gear... that was all for today! I was starting to feel the muscle fatigue from using muscles in a completely different way... it was a great feeling and that night I slept soundly... and snored like a buzz saw, by all accounts. I needed it ...
Sunday would bring new challenges!