Kayaking for dummies

When I was told that most people owned property on a lake in Canada and spent their summers there I must admit I scoffed. How could one country have enough lakes for 36 million people? Also, any body of water within reach of my house in England usually contained either a shopping trolley or a used condom. Occasionally both. Anyway, home sickness aside, it turns out that Canada really does have enough lakes for its entire population. Over the weekend I ventured out for my first lakeside excursion. I thought for my first blog I would write note down some key pointers on a quintessentially Canadian activity that I partook in; kayaking. Fresh from a half hour swim at my local leisure centre the day before I was confident in my water sport pedigree.

Bring appropriate equipment – notably footwear

Aside from the two obvious necessities- a kayak and an oar, you will also need appropriate footwear. Cue me wading into the water with the upmost confidence in a pair of flip flops. To my ire, I snagged one of them in the thick bank of mud and reeds that cover the shore of the lake. It disappeared into the murk and despite all of my best fumbling in the grime, I couldn’t get it back.  After angrily enquiring as to whether Amazon sold individual havianas ( they don’t ) I continued.

Float the Kayak beforehand

Place your kayak in the water, and point it in the direction of the lake. Even I couldn’t mess this one up.

Get into your kayak gracefully – avoid spiders

This requires a little bit of finesse. First, delicately place one foot into the centre of your craft. Once you have a secure footing then, slide your arse in. The trick is not to rock the Kayak too much in case you upend it. I managed to accomplish this, with the grace of an inebriated pig at a trough. With one shoe amiss and a moronic grin, I was now ready to kayak. Disclaimer, lake Simcoe has a unique micro- climate which is perfect for spiders. As the kayak entered the water many of them became alarmed at the prospect of a sudden drowning and began to climb all over me. The vast majority were polite enough not to bite me.

Paddle your kayak

Paddle to the left and right of your kayak in order to move in a straight line. If you want to turn, simply on one side more than the other. This is very easy to pick up and after a while I was gliding serenely across lake Simcoe. Michelle and I decided to paddle out around a small island we could see. This was fantastic. The sun was shining, the waves were lapping against my boat and I could see all the beautiful trees and vegetation fringing the lake. Yet tragedy was never very far away. For beginners, it is unwise to paddle parallel to waves, even the tiny ones on lake Simcoe. Before you could say ‘ competent kayaker’ I had managed to capsize in the middle of the lake. Spluttering inelegantly and waving my oar around, I hung on to the top of the kayak like a titanic survivor on a piece of drift wood. This was it, I was screwed. My body would never be recovered and I’d be devoured by the fish at their leisure. It was at this point that my feet touched the bottom of the lake.

Re-entering your kayak

“ You need to tip the Kayak back over”, I was told. As most two years olds will be able to tell you, if you upend your favourite toy in the bath and it fills with water, sooner or later it will sink. To ensure the water drains out, you need to hoist the kayak up by one end and swivel it so that is upside down. For most experience kayakers this is an easy, practiced motion. At this point we were stuck in a reed bank and decided that travelling around the island perhaps wasn’t the wisest of ideas. Instead, we paddled against the current, before allowing the tide to turn us round so that we could glide serenely back to the dock.

Our greeting upon return – “ where was your damn life jacket?!”

Activity rating 7/10

Finesse and grace with which activity was accomplished 2/10