Summer Paddling? A Piece of Kayak
My kayak is glowering at me.
I’m looking at it right now. It’s sitting bellyupside-down on two sawhorses in my backyard. I can tell it’s not happy. Three point seven metres of fibreglass frowning in permanent rebuke like a resentful spouse.
Why don’t you take me out? We never do anything together anymore. What about my needs?
It’s true I have been a neglectful partner. Here we are in the nuclear centre of a splendid Canadian summer when our waters are at their warmest, our air temperatures the balmiest, and I have yet to hump my kayak down to the shore and dip a paddle in the briny.
Just between the two of us: I don’t like kayaks all that much.
It’s my legs and hips that give me grief in a kayak. Trying to manipulate my body into and out of that miniscule cockpit is like trying to cram an arthritic tarantula into a shot glass.
And trying to do it while the kayak is slithering around in the water?
That’s a Charlie Chaplin movie.
The problem, of course, is mine, not the kayak’s. For the young and the dexterous, the kayak is the quarter horse of the sea – a marvellous craft that’s more than proved itself over thousands of years – and not just among Inuit hunters in Canada’s North. Boats made of
animal hides stretched over frames of wood or bone have a prehistoric pedigree that reaches from Siberia to India’s Bay of Bengal. They were used by tribes in Mongolia and Ethiopia; in Greenland and in Galway Bay.
The cured-hide exterior has given way to canvas, nylon, Kevlar and various plastic compounds, but the original animal-skin covering lives on among purists.
And, of course, in legend, like the one about the three explorers – a Frenchman, an Englishman and a Newfoundlander – captured by a fierce tribe in the Borneo jungle.
They learn that they are to be ceremonially sacrificed and their skins used to build a kayak. Out of respect, they would be allowed to choose their means of death.