Tandem kayaking: The perils and the joy

When thrown in deep waters, does love sink or swim?

August 14, 2017 01:03 pm | Updated 01:04 pm IST

The first time we attempted double-kayaking, The Husband and I almost threw each other into the water, and I don’t mean by accident. I, in full consciousness, wanted to toss him out of the kayak and into the cold, churning waters. I have no doubt that he wanted to do the same to me.

It all started when a friend WhatsApped us, “Yooohooo! wanna kayak?”

The Husband and I looked down at our respective jiggly tummies and decided, “Why not? Time to get some exercise and adventure!”

It wasn’t until the morning of the kayaking that we learnt that there would be no ‘kayaking coach’, meaning there would be no one to give us some training on how to kayak. We were going to be given kayaks and life-jackets and dumped into a gushing river! Ahhhhhhhh!

Some panicked Googling ensued, and in 10 minutes I had learnt how to get into a kayak, how to paddle, and how to turn a kayak. I relayed said information to The Husband, while he sat on his regal throne in the bathroom. “Please also Google ‘How not to topple a kayak’,” was his only contribution before he shut the bathroom door to ensure some peace.

At the venue, we stared at the river with suspicious eyes. The River Lesse was calm in some spots, and gushing and furious in some. It was a 21-km course. This wasn’t going to be easy. The friend who had accompanied us eyed our glum faces and quipped, “Bet 100 bucks that you guys topple over in the first 10 minutes.”

The Husband and I, under a notion of romance, decided that if we were going to topple over, we would topple over together. So, we chose a tandem kayak i.e. a kayak with two seats.

A few minutes into the water and we forgot all about the romance.

The first 10 minutes were spent going around in circles, with each screaming at the other “ NO paddle LEFT!” , “No, No, NOOO, stop paddling!” and “Stop, stop, we are going to hit them!!!”

Soon, we figured out how to get the kayak moving and took off. However, there were turns that had to be navigated, shallow grounds that had to be avoided, fallen trees and boulders that had to be given a wide berth. Our throats got sore from screaming instructions and rebukes and some rare praises at each other.

By the time we neared the 21-km mark, the one or two measly muscles that our bodies had were screaming in protest. However, we had not toppled over, and so we gave each other the “We did it!” look. A moment later, we realised we had celebrated too soon!

Near the 21-km point was a Niagara look-alike. Okay, I exaggerate, it was a 5-foot dip in the river bank. However, when you have no prior experience, 5 feet tend to look like 50 feet.

We watched in horror as fellow kayakers flew off the ledge and dropped onto the lower bank. I use the word ‘dropped’ loosely here. Some made a perfect landing, some disappeared under the frothing waters to re-appear sputtering and gasping.

Would we make it?

We most certainly did not. One minute we were flying off the ledge and the next we were thrashing about in frigid waters. I panicked (even though I knew how to swim) until I realised that the water was only 5 feet deep. Thus, cold and wet, we dragged our kayak out of the water and ended our kayaking adventure.

And oh, there is a silver lining. No, not that The Husband and I learnt to communicate better with each other. That would be too unbelievably movie-style, right?

The silver lining was this: We hadn’t realised that there had been a camera set up to capture shots of people as they neared the waterfall. And there, on the wall near the exit, pinned amongst hundreds of others was a picture of us: Paddle-holding arms up in the air, mouth open in euphoric screams. A perfect picture of the joy and adrenaline rush that a sport gives us. Isn’t that what makes it all worthwhile?

What’s in a name?

The name ‘Kayak’ means ‘hunter's boat’, as kayaks were originally invented by the Inuit, Yup'ik, and the Aleut for hunting.

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