Back to the river
After three weeks back at home it was time to get back on the water. Keith and I have both been a little lazy since we got back. The post holiday blues you might say. Nothing seems so much fun when it’s raining and miserable, and motivation is hard to find when you don’t have a big group of people all getting out doing fun stuff together every day.
We made the effort to get to a Friday night river session with the club, despite the miserable weather which had stopped us the past couple of weeks. I had my niece for the day and she was excited by the prospect of doing some kayaking with me. After an awesome afternoon with the horses we got our stuff together and headed to the club. Pennies paid, we got changed and I got some kit out for Freya to borrow. It was only once we started to get a boat and paddles sized up for her that reality of what we were doing set in. I think having seen some of my videos from the Alps she was worried about it being big feisty waves or something, and asked if we were going to start slowly! I reassured her of course and told her if she doesn’t like it, that I won’t be upset if she wants to stop. A quick brief and introduction with Keith and we were heading down to the water with our boats.
At the steps we let a few others get on the water first so Freya could take her time. I can now appreciate what everyone else could see in my face when I first paddled off flat water. I recognised the look because I could see the feeling sat behind it. Wanting to try something new and exciting but that fear and apprehension that comes from jumping in to the unknown! I let Keith show her how to hold the paddles (we had gone through how to sit in the boat back up on the grass) and he slid her and her boat off the side to sit in the water. I took over then while Keith got himself ready. We just sat in the eddy and I got Freya to take some deep breaths. Once again, I knew from very recent experience just the sort of thing she would be feeling. A little twitch of your body making the boat wobble while you float around at the mercy of the water (We were still in the eddy but you still bobble about a bit) feeling like you’re about to go in at any moment, and this lump of plastic you’re sat in feeling so alien. Still in the eddy Keith and I sat with her and got her going through her first tentative forward strokes. It wasn’t long before her panic eased and we set off for the other side other river.
Now that her panic had settled Keith went through a little more detail about forward strokes and a couple of basic turning strokes and had us both practicing spinning around on the spot. Some might think a little basic for me, now that I’m an Alpine paddler and all, but most of this stuff was skipped over with me, as I had some very faint memory from my previous paddling and could go just about in a straight line.... It felt good to go back to these basics and know a little more about some techniques I didn’t even know I had been using.
By the end of the session, Freya was paddling back and forth confidently, and I introduced the idea of Ferry Gliding to her. When I explained, she said ‘Oh, like leg yield!’ which is about the closest horse movement you can compare to a Ferry Glide. She picked this up quite easily and we then joined in with some games at the end. I didn’t see how Freya got on with the T-Bone game, she was paired up with another young lad who started last week and I was paired up with Dean. In our first round I just managed to get to the side of Dean. I had honestly thought I’d lose very quickly but we both spent a good couple of minutes fighting it out! In our second round Dean tried a little harder, and then tried so hard not to get caught out that he went over and had to roll! A little relay race finished of the evening. Our team having both Dean and I in it, and the other Team only having quite new paddlers, we had a handicap that Dean would have to go backwards! I was so impressed with Freya paddling off to the other side and back on her own, it didn’t matter that we lost the race. It was good fun and I was glad to have made the effort to go (as I always am once I get there). We had hardly noticed the rain.
It also seems that Freya has another new hobby, she said to me on the way home... ‘That was so much fun, I nearly asked to stop in the beginning because it was so wobbly but it was really great. I can’t wait until my next Friday with you!’.
It felt good to have got on the water and practice before Sunday, when Keith and I were heading back to Wales for our first ‘proper’ paddle since our return home.... Watch this space for that update!!!