Sunday, September 13, 2020

How to enjoy kayaking in “new normal” era

Enjoying nature more important than ever in these strange days

I was tempted to call this the “new abnormal” but realized… 

we don’t need another reminder that strange days are here. When I posted an item about Covid-19 in March, it was outdated a couple of days later. I had suggested that Californians should get free admission to all state parks since so many other social activities were banned.

Unfortunately, a gazillion people flocked to state parks and beaches that weekend. So much for safe distancing. Most parks were shut immediately, and I scrapped the post. Most state parks have since reopened. Except for those inside major wildfire zones. Or are inhospitable due to heavy smoke that presents a serious health hazard. Strange days indeed.

The smoke will disappear, eventually. Covid-19, maybe not so soon. So let’s focus on safe kayaking in a viral environment. On the bright side, you may not need to carry your own supply of toilet paper everywhere any longer. 

Quarantine on the water
For starters, kayaking lends itself to safe distancing of six feet or more between people. Turns out most kayak paddles are the perfect metric for that. My 210cm paddle gives me a 6-foot-8.7 inch measuring stick. Your paddle is probably more than six feet long, too. 

Paddles also may come in handy off the water. For a time, walking in a local park became hazardous as maskless runners brushed by me as they came up from behind, huffing and puffing. That stopped as soon as I took my paddle on walks and “practiced”

air strokes. Runners obviously thought I was wacko and gave me a wide berth. Other walkers gave me a smile and a thumb’s-up.  

I haven't seen many other people wearing masks around parking lots and docks. But folks tend to relax their guard in parks, and safe distancing goes kaput. Yes, it may look foolish, but my mask stays on until I hit the water. And goes back on when I return to the dock.

The hard decision comes when a launch area is overcrowded, as many parks have seen. Then it’s a choice between leaving with the boat still on the roof rack, or staying inside the car until the crowd thins out. I now take a good book along with my kayaking gear.

Some other common-sense tips:

It’s always best to paddle with companions, but limit your pod to one or two other healthy friends, at most. It helps limit chances for viral exposure and makes it easier to maintain proper personal space. Also rules out carpooling, unfortunately.

If you are paddling solo, perfect your routine for loading and unloading your kayak without assistance. There’s often someone around who will offer to help, but it’s probably wiser to decline, unless help is really necessary. 

Take some sanitizer wipes or gels along to use in public restrooms and other places with frequent human contact.  

Limit paddling to day trips and minimize exposure beyond your small group. Pack snacks and meals at home before you go. The “new normal” has brought strange days, but kayakers can still enjoy the water.

© Glenn Brank, 2020