Friday, August 31, 2012

That's a paddlin': Musings from a proud kayak owner

There's always a feeling of excitement that comes with buying a new toy, whether it be an e-reader, a bicycle or a paintball gun.

My new kayak. We're going
to have some fun.
When you take that toy out of the box for the first time, all the trouble you went through to get it -- saving money, doing research, convincing a significant other that you need it -- becomes totally worth it. Instead of thinking about all the fun you could have with that toy, it turns into thinking about all the fun you WILL have with said item.

If the new toy is an e-reader or a Playstation, you're loading your favorite books on it and picking out your favorite games. If it's a fishing boat or a motorcycle, you're planning trips and figuring out how to customize it as your very own. Whatever the case, you can't wait to try it out and you're excited for the enrichment it will bring to your life.

That excitement pretty much sums up the last couple weeks for me, as I have finally made a purchase that has long been on my list of things to get: I bought a kayak. Or more specifically -- after all, I've written not one, but two blog entries about its inflatable counterpart -- I bought a REAL kayak.

The price was definitely right. A friend of my brothers was looking to unload one of the kayaks he owned and didn't want to go through the effort of selling it on eBay. My brother thought about snatching it up for himself, but after hearing how much use I got out of his inflatable kayak, he generously informed me of his friend's intent and asked me if i wanted it for the cool price of $40. I said "yes" about as quickly as the time it took John Belushi's "Animal House" character to polish off a bottle of Jack Daniels.

Paddle sports in general have always appealed to me. I had the good fortune of both growing up near a river and having a father who enjoyed making wood-strip canoes in his free time. Canoe trips were a regular occurrence in my youth, whether they be multi-day trips up to the Boundary Waters, or short day paddles on Elk River in our backyard. I loved the feeling of being of being on the enjoyed and welcomed the serenity of the setting.

In my adult life, kayaking always seemed like it would be an ideal activity for me. It offers the same serenity as canoeing, only without as much hassle. The boats are smaller, they're a little easier to carry and they don't require a second person to use -- a key point with an odd schedule like mine. If you live close to water and you're so inclined, you can squeeze in a quick kayaking session even in the busiest of days.

It really ties the room together
Now that I finally have a kayak to call my own -- and found the perfect hanging spot for it above the dinner table in my apartment, see second photo -- I've been getting plenty of use out of it. I've taken it out a few times on Cannon and Roberds lakes near Faribault and I'm already plotting a few ambitious trips with it. Among them include:

  • Doing a two-day float on the Cannon River from Faribault to Red Wing and hopefully bribing my friend, a recent sportswriter hire at the Red Wing Republic, into driving me back to Faribault (I can pay handsomely in home-brewed beer, Joe)
  • Attempting a Boundary Waters trip with my brothers
  • Taking it out for a day on the Chain of Lakes area in the Twin Cities, a beautiful area of the metro that strikes a seemingly impossible balance between nature and urban
  • Doing the row-ride-run triathlon in Winona, a race that I'm convinced was tailor-made for people like me (translation: people who aren't good at swimming)
  • Trying it out on some real rapids, either in Wisconsin (for an easier trip) or Colorado (once I get good at it)

I'm sure other ideas will come to mind as well. That's usually the way it goes when you have an exciting new toy to play with.

This is going to be fun.

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