Wednesday, December 8, 2010

'Cuz That's How I Roll

I found an activity for John and I to spend time together. It's kayaking. Actually it's quite popular in Chattanooga, as evidenced by the fact I saw 20-30 boats in a swimming pool at our university last night during our first roll class.

First we were instructed to put on these skirts made out of something like wet suit material with a large misshapen rubber tutu hanging off of it. Then we put on our PFD's. (That's lifejacket to the uninitiated.) We learned a little about different boats and drain plugs and where to put our knees inside these boats.

Then our new friend/instructor, Liz, took us to the edge of the pool and explained how we were to get into our boats. Saving the details, I'll just say getting in a kayak is not exactly like getting into a canoe. John's first attempt could be called a full immersion baptism into a new sport. I was a little more graceful. I only lost my balance on my second attempt to mount my giant kazoo.

Liz explained very matter-of-factly that our first skill to learn was called the "wet entry". Yep, that's exactly what it sounds like. Now that we had tried so hard to get into our boats, we were now going to get right back out of them. She demonstrated leaning forward and leaning to one side to roll upside down and then "pull yourself out of the boat just like you pull off your pants".

John flipped and apparently got his pants off just fine, which is a relief because he's not that coordinated about undressing on land. Then it was my turn. I surfaced, thinking that wasn't so bad, to find my long-time friend's son, row up and congratulate me for a job well done. Yes! I smiled, thinking I do a great job falling out of perfectly good boats!

Liz demonstrated, with the easy balance and coordination of a mountain-climbing Olympic gymnast, how to get back in our boats from the water. I indulged her and attempted several times even though she insisted I didn't have to. John was delighted to find I could not mount the plastic torpedo and spent the next hour and fifteen minutes trying to do something his mother couldn't.

Meanwhile, Liz moved onto showing me how to attach my skirt to the boat. That was fun and made me feel like a real kayaker. The next step, of course, was how to fall out of the boat when the skirt was attached.

Apparently, the goal of kayaking is to view the river from an upside down position. Anyway, it was again with the pulling off of the pants analogy. Only, to my estimation, this was more like tugging and yanking off your wet, skinny jeans when you are still way too early postpartum, while holding your breath. Simple, Liz, very simple.

Satisfied at my remarkable ability to fall out, we moved onto flipping over while staying in. Apparently, it's all in the hips. She demonstrated how to use the nose of someone else's boat to hold one's head up to breathe while one's boat is still capsized. This only added to my theory that this sport is somewhat akin to inverted snorkeling.

Now, I was supposed to flip my boat back to right while keeping my head resting on the nose of her boat. I'm going to call that "underwater boat yoga". When my boat was flipped, I was to once again sit up. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

John was still trying to mount his kayak from the water.

When I had sufficiently flipped my hips, it was time to discuss kayaking distress. Aha, someone involved with this sport had, in fact, figured out that too much hanging upside down from a capsized boat could be too much of a good thing.

I was instructed to flip completely upside down, bring my hands out of the water and bang loudly on my boat three times. That would alert my kayaking buddies I was finished holding my breath and needed their assistance. Then I was to rub my hands back and forth along the length of my boat.

At that point, my "buddy" would ram the nose of his or her kayak into the side of mine. I would then take hold of said boat, assuming my hands still have gripping power after a potential direct hit, and pull myself to the correct angle and lift myself to breathe and perform that little hip-flipping stunt we had already practiced.

Liz waited and smiled in that encouraging way that says, "I know what I've just asked you to do is complete insanity, but I have training and certification so I know you will do it. Plus you did sign the waiver."

I'm fuzzy on the next part. I remember banging my hands on the boat. The rest was done completely by instinct or guardian angel (I'm not sure which).

I found myself upright once more, hearing distant and water-filled sounds of "Good job. Would you like to do it again?" But all I could do was think how it felt like I had tried to Neti Pot the entire pool. I finally understood the reason behind those nose plugs I saw on other kayakers.

Liz gave me some upside-down reprieve to work on my paddling skills and tried to talk John into trying something other than taming his florescent green bucking bronco. I paddled around amidst all those kayaks feeling somewhat like a plastic toy in the bathtub of an overindulged child.

My sinuses dumped a fair amount of chlorinated water down my throat and my hearing had returned so I decided I was up to attempting the "buddy rescue" again. In my mind it should be called banging-on-the-boat-while-drowning-and-waiting-for-the-miracle-to-happen.


She had training and certifications and I HAD signed a waiver... She also had pity on me and lent me her nose plugs.

Ahh, that was much less like drowning than the first time.

John paddled around and fell in on accident a couple of times. (Why not on purpose like a normal kayaker?) But it was obvious he was ready to go. So we drained our boats and returned the rest of our equipment and got dressed.

He really thought this sport was for the birds. (Weird, swimming, upside down birds, I suppose.) But I bought him some hot chocolate on the way home and now he's gung-ho to go back next week. I am too. Right after I purchase some noseplugs.

****Update**** I've been reminded it's actually called a wet exit, not a wet entry. I blame it on losing the hearing in my clogged ears and adrenaline pumping through my veins. I recommend if you want to learn about kayaking for real, you don't do it through my blog. ****


Mary said...

That's awesome! You're so brave! ;)

Carissa said...

That's hilarious! I had forgotten that you and John were going to do that. Can't wait to hear more adventures from "Kayaking with the Laughners"!

Leigh Anne said...

You are awesome. Is Liz kind of young, lots of freckles and has long strawberry blond hair? If so, I think she took me on my kayaking trip on the Tennessee River with the Aquarium. Glad you had an adventurous time.

The Pottsy - Population 4 said...

Kazoo! Haha! Maybe after I have this babe I can go do a class. I've always wanted to try the rolling stuff. But, after your description, I must say I am a little scared.