10 Year Anniversary of Kayaking Life

I’ve come a long way since I started kayaking in 2000. I clearly recall the day I tried a kayak for the first time on Thumb Lake in northern Michigan. My brother in law Shawn Denton put me in his brand new Dagger Seeker and pushed me off the beach. I glided easily over the surface of a clean blue-green lake with a sandy bottom. The water mirrored the sky. Watching my wake, water slid easily under the hull as I applied power to the paddle was as close to magic as I’d ever come. I paddled in and out of the coves of that small inland lake.

The horizon of my life totally changed in that instant from one that was known, to one that was limitless. The freedom and ability to maneuver the craft captured me tight as a spiders nest. I think my family probably hoped and prayed it would be a passing interest or fad. Ten years later this has obviously not been the case.

Some would argue that a healthy mind would not obsess so heavily on a “hobby”. Is it a hobby?

My online dictionary says that a hobby is this,

“an activity or interest pursued for pleasure or relaxation and not as a main occupation”

Well that doesn’t sound like kayaking as I know it. Anyone who has paddled with me has known that I am not seeking pleasure or relaxation. It is not my main occupation, so one out of three.

So what does the dictionary say about obsession.

“Compulsive preoccupation with a fixed idea or an unwanted feeling or emotion, often accompanied by symptoms of anxiety.”

Compulsive preoccupation is dead on, anyone who has caught me looking at the webcam would agree with that. Is it an unwanted feeling or emotion, or accompanied with anxiety… no.

So where does that leave us, maybe somewhere in the unhealthy balance between obsession and hobby?

How can one sum up whether ten years of kayaking has been bad or good for me?

Negatives first:

  • Money spent on kayaking.
  • Time away from family.
  • Periodic risk to life and limb.

Positives second:

  • Friends and social network otherwise unknown to me
  • Exercise
  • Time outside
  • Time away from computer
  • Travel to some of the most beautiful places on earth
  • Unified focus, or time spent focusing on one thing, one day at a time
  • New and interesting perspective on life
  • Periodic risk to life and limb

So of I could make kayaking free and bring my family with me every time, life would be great, maybe…

Everyone has their own agenda at home, and that’s as it should be. It’s about finding the balance. As has often been the subject of this blog. Laura, Gabriel, and Isabella are as into kayaking as they want to be. Me, I am as into kayaking as one can be, bordering on obsession.

Here are the things that I would never have experienced if it had not been for that fateful ride in my brother in law’s kayak in 2000.

  • Pukaskwa National Park
  • Lake Superior Provincial Park
  • Silver Islet to Rossport
  • Inishbofin and Inishark Islands
  • Sea Kayaking under the Golden Gate Bridge
  • Manitou Islands
  • Kayak Surfing Waves in excess of 12 feet on Lake Michigan
  • Kayak Surfing with dolphins in San Diego
  • Kayak Surfing with Sea Lions in Santa Cruz
  • Sunrise over the Pacific with perfect peely surf under pure blue skies
  • Paddling under the full moon on Lake Michigan
  • Sunsets over Lake Michigan while surfing storms on Lake Michigan

Here are some things I’ve learned in those ten years.

  • Know your limits.
  • Test your limits within a reasonable margin of safety.
  • Always have a backup plan.
  • Have a backup plan for your backup plan.
  • No such thing as too much gear, only too little warm clothing.
  • Never cook with your stove in between your legs.
  • Your co-workers are only marginally interested in your kayaking exploits.
  • Family never cares that you had a bad swim and missed dinner, they just want you to cook dinner.
  • Waves are much smaller in video and pictures than they appear while surfing.
  • Talk less paddle more.
  • Take each day, one day at a time.
  • Focus on one thing at a time.
  • But keep the big picture in mind.
  • Remember where you parked.
  • No one looks cool in a drysuit.
  • Always buy the best gear when it comes to warmth and survival.
  • Always be where you say you will be when your mother is involved.


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  6. I remember seeing a funny cartoon:

    Winter, father and his son are standing next to their home. There is quite a bit of snow on both the roof and the ground, resembles one of the vintage postcards. Snow is probably reaching to fathers knees.

    "-Son, – dad says, – When I was your age, we used to get snow up to our waist"

    Needless to say, snow is reaching kid's waist 😉

    Anyways, the waves were bigger when I started paddling…