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A Windy Pond

Kayak Dov and his wife invited me to meet them at a New Jersey reservoir for rolling practice. The weather was predicted to be sunny and warm, and I’ve been needing to practice my roll in my whitewater boat. Of course I said yes.

They were inviting along a friend and the friend’s two children, ages 8 and 10. They’d bring a canoe for the family, sea kayaks for themselves. It’d be a grand day.

As events unfolded, it turned out that a single adult managing a canoe with two children was a non-trivial effort. A gusty wind didn’t help either – blowing first from the north, then the south, and eventually the east, the wind would vex us all day long.

Erin and I maneuvered to a far end of the reservoir and practiced rolling. Well, she did; I flubbed, and paddled boat full of water until eventually taking out and draining in the whitewater way. Kayak Dov had lingered with his friend, and when Erin and I went looking, we overshot them, paddling through a sunken forest in another part of the reservoir. Pretty, but time-consuming.

Also, taxing. Whitewater boats are slow compared to long, tracking sea kayaks.

Dov found us and led us back to where the family had taken out for a lunch break. To occupy the children, I offered for them to take turns in my kayak, holding on to them so they didn’t paddle out of range. Surprisingly, the younger boy did better, though to be fair neither the boat nor the paddle were appropriately sized for the children.

I wanted to paddle the canoe, and thought it might be fun with the kids. One of them wanted to stay in the kayak and I thought, “no problem.” Did I mention the wind earlier? Somehow that escaped my assessment of the conditions.

Somewhat predictably, the canoe was blown downwind, and while we maintained control, I basically had a small engine (a child) in the front and competent rudder/skeg in the back. We quickly found ourselves faced with a mission to rescue the other child, happily afloat in my kayak.

Goals are good! Now we had a practical problem against which to apply any knowledge I might impart.

At some point, our quarry let go of his paddle, which meant now I had what amounted to a common training scenario. We prioritized the paddle and his boat, and after a fair amount of effort arrived at him, then set out for the paddle while he held on to the canoe.

I have to give this child credit: he knew how to position himself in a way to not obstruct our paddling, and did a great job handrailing around the canoe.

Meanwhile, the older boy kept saying he could jump in and swim to the paddle, which was fifty yards away. I asked him not to, explaining I needed his help propelling the boat.

Eventually we completed our secondary objective and secured the paddle. We made our way to shore to try and keep out of the wind, and slowly made our way back. It was challenging: too close to the shore and we hit branches; not too further out, we caught wind.

Eventually Dov and Erin came by and, while we weren’t far from camp, offered to two the kayak back while we canoed on in.

So, it was an adventure! The papa seemed satisfied to have had someone mind the kids while he took a nap. We packed up, and paddled back to the put-in. The family set off, done for the day, while the rest of us finally practiced rolling.

Erin is quite accomplished as a roller. She and Dov both. Her athletic and competitive background give her great kinesthetic sense, and she hand rolls pretty easily. Dov is none to shabby either, working on his forward finish, both sides. Both however commented on feeling a bit rusty. Not having had a pool program this year hurt us all.

With Dov’s eyes on my roll, I realized I had to be more affirmative in keeping my head in the right place. My whitewater paddle is not great, and the boat is big, but all the same, technique trumps equipment. I was able to pull off a proper roll and also an extended paddle roll. Need to be a bit more consistent before my next whitewater trip.

So that’s it! A grand day out. Now that summer is upon us, and vaccines have been rolling out, hopefully we’ll have more in the near future.

Published in Kayaking

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