Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Find a yak pack to call your own

True confession: For several months, I delayed joining a “social paddle” group because I just knew I would be left in the wake of some hardcore kayakers. Venture out once, keep the other kayaks in sight for maybe five minutes, then wave as they disappear on the horizon. “That’s okay. Leg cramp. I’ll catch up later,” I’d call out cheerfully. Then hopefully get the darn boat on the car rack and roar out of the parking lot before they returned.

In this particular scenario – one of my more optimistic, by the way – my fellow kayakers were all “Baywatch” stunt doubles, twenty-something hard-bodies who ran five miles to warm up before launching their yaks.

Boy, was I dumb.
When I finally mustered the nerve this spring to try out a weekly social paddle sponsored by California Canoe & Kayak on Lake Natoma, near Sacramento, I was shocked to discover that these were ordinary folks just like me. Okay, some had better tans. But mainly they were people in their 30s, 40s, 50s, and beyond. Heck, a couple of them were older than me – though in better shape. But most importantly, they were into paddling for the fun of it and introducing others to kayaking.

About a dozen of us have paddled on a weekly basis this spring and summer, and we'll continue on into winter, weather permitting. We informally call ourselves the “Tribe” – and in this one, everyone survives and thrives. We have our own traditions, of course, the most important one being Fran's Famous Banana Nut Bread, served at a mid-paddle break on every outing. (That's Fran below, in the foreground.)

If you live in the Sacramento area, go to the CCK website for “social paddles.” Or check out other organizations such as the Sacramento State Aquatic Center. Elsewhere, inquire with your nearest full-service kayak dealer – “full service” meaning an outfit that sponsors classes, paddling events, and the like. Kayaking with others is more fun, safer, and -- who knows -- you might even learn something that improves your paddle stroke.