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After a long week, I wanted some simple paddling this past weekend. No commitments, no schedules to keep, no tides to make. I slept in, did some chores, paid some bills, and headed up to the Inwood Canoe Club, where I keep my boat.

I took it out, and went through some basic maneuvers – turning, turning on edge, running a slalom of buoys using edging as much as possible and paddling as little as possible. I played a game where I would paddle into a slip, then back out and turn backwards into the next slip, and then forwards out to the next, and so on.

Then I got to what I love most: sculling for support and rolling.

For the laity, sculling for support is basically moving the paddle back and forth horizontally for support. Done correctly, it allows the paddler to lean pretty steeply over, even practically capsizing before coming back up. I’m working on extended sculling, to lay on my back, sideways, without pitching over.

I’ve also got a solid, reliable roll. I worked on this quite a bit last year, and this year have gotten it nice and consistent, and I enjoy showing off in front of non-paddlers. I still have a lot to improve on, working on harder conditions and using my other side, but it’s good – I can roll my boat.

Near the boathouse is a restaurant with open seating overlooking the river. There’s also a small pier where people can enjoy the view, and sometimes fishermen perch there. I like to paddle out and show off so I did that – rolls, sculling for support, and so on.

After a while, I remembered there was another boat I wanted to paddle – a pretty boat, a Boreal Design Ellesmere, that is just my size. Paddling that boat is a dream – with hard chines, it holds an edge incredibly well, and turns on a dime. I did some more sculling, and some rolls, and headed back.

I decided to try some self-rescues. The tricky thing about this specific boat is that it has an ocean cockpit – meaning it is round, and a little harder to get into. I hopped out of the boat, floating in the water, and then scrambled back on. Then, I had to put my legs in.

I couldn’t. At that angle, I basically needed backwards-facing knees. I would try to twist myself in and almost fall in – eventually, I did. I scrambled back on, and fell in again. Fine, I thought. I scrambled back, sat in the cockpit well with my legs dangling out, and paddled back to the dock.

I had a snack and then went back out in my boat. I paddled back to the pier. As I approached I saw some men shuffling out. A new audience!

As I approached, I notices some of them had reflective tape on the cuffs of their pants, and that their pants were held up with suspenders. A couple had collared shirts with badges on them, and I saw logos on the rest: FDNY.

A woman on the pier made a circling motion with her arm. One cue, I rolled.

I paddled closer. Now they were all lined up on the pier, looking in my direction.

“You aren’t all here for me, are you?”

They all nodded.

“I’m OK. I just come out here to practice.”

“Well could you practice someplace else,” said one jokingly. Half-jokingly, as I thought about it.

“OK.” I was feeling rather chuffed. I had actually moved someone to call 911 – which, is not a good thing, taking away resources. It wasn’t my call though – I was perfectly fine. From now on I’ll practice closer to the boathouse, or with friends.

Published in 2014 Backpaddle Inwood Inwood Canoe Club Kayaking New York


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