Why Kayak? What's SUP? Two Ways to Paddle Into Pleasure
This is the time of year I get to kayak on a small wilderness lake in the North Woods of Wisconsin. Think loons, eagles, otters, herons, brats and fried cheese curds.
I love paddling Walter, my well-worn 17-foot Solstice, and not just because it's an inspiring upper body workout. In less than a minute, kayaking transports me into the silence, the rhythm of the waves, one stroke on my right, another on my left, over and over, inhaling, exhaling, sometimes repeating the mantra, sometimes sending my breath to a tight spot on my torso that's begging for attention.
"Why don't I do this every day?" I ask myself, waiting for Nelson the Eagle to surprise me with a flyover. "Why isn't everyone doing this all the time?"
As you can see, regular, rhythmical aerobic exercise has a powerful effect on the mind.
Let's take a closer look at kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding (SUP), two wonderful waterfront sports worthy of your free time:
WHY KAYAK? It works the body, it shifts the mind, and -- here's the stress-reducing part you'll never get on a treadmill in the gym -- kayaking brings you into contact with nature. The intimate outdoor connections you make there are biochemically based and can lower your blood pressure, calm your nerves and revive your spirit.
Getting started, you should know there are sea kayaks and river kayaks. Sea kayaks are stable, great for exploring. River kayaks are tippy, made to roll. Paddling either qualifies as great fun, but today I'm extolling the wonders of exploring gentle rivers, quiet lakes and calm seas in a proper sea kayak.
What do I mean by proper? A multipurpose plastic tub that sells for $49.99 at your local big-box store is not going to give you the same smooth ride as a quality kayak that's been designed for efficiency and comfort.
Better to buy a used good kayak than a new clumsy, unbalanced one, even if you love the neon color. So rent the best kayaks you can, and when it comes to buying, save up, and remember to investigate the booming secondhand market.
LEARN THE SKILLS. I've had 8-year-olds and 80-year-olds paddling my kayak, giggling with joy, but if you're planning to get the most out of the experience, learn the basics, including self-rescue. Human teachers are best, I find. You might be surprised to learn that paddling a kayak is a push-and-pull experience, with an emphasis on the push of the upper arm, through the air, not the pull of the lower arm, through the water.