FALLING IN LOVE KAYAKING

Embarking on a new adventure…

I’ll never forget the day I fell in love with kayaking. Me and my friends (avid kayakers),decided to take a trip out onto the Lakes of Killarney, most had their own kayaks, and the rest of us managed to borrow some. Some of us were sit on tops, some were in double sit on top kayaks and others were in river kayaks.

So we went about gathering the rest of our gear, paddles, buoyancy aids, dry bags to keep lunch and spare clothes in. All of this gear was new to me, so my friends did most of the packing and organising, and I brought what they advised and just went with the flow (pardon the pun).

After we had all of that packed, kayaks strapped to the roofs of several cars and the rest of the gear stuffed into the boots, we were ready to go!

On the drive there I was experiencing a mix of emotions. I was nervous of the unknown territory, but also totally excited to be trying something new. I didn’t really know what to expect from the experience. I couldn’t wait to get out of the car and get started!

As we drove there, I felt like I was embarking on a new adventure. I was familiar with the area, having grown up there, but found myself a little lost, in the best sense of the word! The back roads we had to take to the lake shore, where we would set off from, were new to me. When we pulled up the lake shore I was struck by the beauty of the lakes and mountains, having never seen it from this perspective before, it was like I was seeing them for the first time again.

So we all poured out of the cars, emptied the gear and got the kayaks on the water. I was on a sit on top kayak on my own. When I first got onto the water I felt a little off balance, but then my friends showed me how to sit properly, with my feet at the correct distance away from me, and sitting upright in the kayak.

The paddle was the next thing, the correct grip on the paddle took a while to get used to, and I felt my hands slipping a lot so I had to keep correcting my grip.

Now that all of that was explained to me, my friends said there was a really cool place they wanted to bring us to. So off we set on our adventure, our destination was about 1.5km away, but we took our time and paddled at our ease.

Umm…. Guys? Is the kayak meant to go straight?

Or should I say their ease, for me it was not easy! I felt like I probably had to paddle twice the amount that they did, because I could not get my kayak to go straight! I couldn’t understand it! From where I was it looked like I was paddling and doing everything the same as they were. But somehow they were going straight and I wasn’t, I just couldn’t understand it.

They explained there were a few different strokes you could do to manipulate the kayak to go straight, and that they would show me some other time. That after a while “you just get a feel for it”.

But I quickly got over the fact that I couldn’t kayak as well as everyone else. It didn’t matter. I looked around, the sun shining down, it was an unusually warm day for Ireland, I felt like I could have been anywhere in the world. The lake was like a mirror, reflecting back the woodlands that lined the lake shore, and the mountains that were in the background. I was awestruck by the beauty and couldn’t believe I had lived here all my life and not seen this!

Hello world! We have arrived!

As we pulled up to our destination I could hear a raging waterfall, after pulling the boats up onto the shore, and walking through the woods, the waterfall revealed itself. It was amazing, and we had it all to ourselves.

It was the ultimate escape from everything,no people, no technology, no nothing. Just me, a few of my friends and nature. I loved it.

We went exploring the woods, hiked up the waterfall as far as we could, jumped into the pools and swam for a while. It was paradise.

On the way back we all were tired but so happy, after having such an amazing day. The kayak still wasn’t going straight for me, but I didn’t mind at all. I was buzzing with excitement.

That was it for me, I was hooked, head over heels! I loved kayaking, I wasn’t technically good at it, but I knew right then I would be (I can be very stubborn when I make up my mind about something), because I wanted to have more days like that. Going to places people hardly ever go to, and seeing things people rarely get to see.

The Beginning of a new love affair.

I am glad to say now, I have a decent level of kayaking. The more I did it, the more I loved it. As my skills improved, I got to see more and more interesting and off the grid places. Sea kayaking brought me through caves off the coast,only accessible by kayak,seeing new born seals with their parents chilling out on a beach, a dolphin swimming under my boat and popping his head up to say hello, and seeing the sea filled with jellyfish, like something out of that scene from ‘Finding Nemo’!

River kayaks aloud me to surf waves at the beach (what a rush, and a great work out!), they gave me a new perspective again, I felt like an adventurer going to discover new lands, finding new amazing places I never would have otherwise. It’s also a great rush! Running down a rapid with water crashing up over you head, there is no feeling like coming out the other side of it. Heart pounding, sigh of relief, you made it down. The best way I can compare it is to the feeling you get when you get off a roller coaster, or a big water slide. But on a roller coaster, you have no control over the outcome, you know you will reach the bottom at the end. Where as in a kayak, there is no guarantee you will make it to the bottom without taking a swim, so as well as the adrenaline rush you get when you reach the bottom, you also have this amazing sense of achievement. And all you want to do is do it again, and see how you can improve and do it better the next time.

Now don’t get me wrong, I have taken my fair share of swims! But that is all part of it, as they say “if you’re not wet you’re not trying!”. But as long as you are with people you trust, who know what they are doing, the risk factor is massively decreased. I have been very lucky to have been surrounded by people that are better than me, and this has really brought my skill level up, in many ways. They have thought me tips and tricks for everything, gear, safety, weather, paddling skills and techniques. So if I could give you one piece of advice if you are planning on taking up kayaking (which I highly recommend) , find people that are better than you, and wreck their heads! Ask them loads of questions, and get out paddling with them every chance you get. Soak it all up, and make every minute count… and don’t forget to smile! :)

Just go do it.  

Basically what I am trying to get across with all of this is that, in the world of kayaking, there is something for everyone. From relaxing days around lakes and seas (weather dependant obviously, because the lakes and seas can be pretty gnarly at times, which can also be fun.), to adrenaline filled trips on white water or surfing. And even if you don’t progress your skills as I did, it can still be enjoyed. Like I said, my first day in the boat I couldn’t even get it to go straight, but I still had the most amazing day. But don’t take my word for it! Get out there, experience it for yourself, and most importantly, enjoy it.

~ Vicky