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Game On! That’s a Paddlin’

Over the millennia, the kayak has evolved from purely a hunting vessel to a recreational craft as well

Noted back surgery enthusiast and occasional scratch golfer Tiger Woods has a well-documented love of…no, not that…watercraft.

Well, possibly that too.

I digress. The aforementioned affection for the life of a seaman resulted in Eldrick’s purchase of a $20-ish million, 155 foot yacht. In 2011, perhaps showing sensitivity toward a global climate of tempered ostentation and a trend toward downsizing, or perhaps to pay off his not-inconsequential divorce settlement (between $100 and 200 million, depending on what tabloid you prefer), he sold the little skiff and now makes do with a $3 million 63 foot diving boat.

Hey, we’re all scraping by the best we can.

Oh, since you asked, the vessels were christened Privacy and Solitude.

Humility and Subtlety had already been registered, evidently.

Still, I’m not here to bury Admiral Nike, but rather to praise his choice of outdoor hobby, as is our wont here at Game On.

If times continue to require komodo-skin belt-tightening for Ol’ Woody, and his recent lack of ball-whacking success certainly hint at narrowing revenue streams going forward, I humbly suggest another form of water transport; one that I have enthusiastically taken up recently.

The kayak.

For the uninitiated landlubber, the kayak is a tapered, single person vessel with a double bladed paddle. Kind of like a big snow pea pod with a hole in the middle. The name originated from Greenland, specifically the even-cooler palindrome “qajaq”, meaning “man’s boat” or “hunter’s boat”. The indigenous people of that subarctic land, as well the Innu of Canada and others, developed their qajaqs out of seal skins and whalebone structures and used them primarily for hunting, as early as 4000 years ago. The shape was designed with maneuverability in mind, and when the special watertight skin jacket, or tuilik, was attached, the hunter was able to use the “eskimo roll” to recover from capsizing, the Innu word for “hypothermia” not yet having been coined.

Over the millennia, the kayak has evolved from purely a hunting vessel to a recreational craft as well. Designs have varied, from long, narrow craft for speed and competition, to shorter, wider ones that casual users can depend upon for stability and ease of remaining blue-sky-side-up.

I’m a huge fan of the latter.

2004 Olympic gold medalist and cheerful Canadian uber-male Adam Van Koeverden prefers the former, so if you have designs on national glory when you take up the kayak, that’s the way to go.

There is also whitewater kayaking, whereby the kayakist suits up in a helmet, wet/dry suit, flotation vest, and a waterproof copy of his/her life documents , and careens down a churning, battering, abused-by-spray  funnel of bright white impending death, more commonly referred to as a whitewater river.

For fun.

Your humble narrator prefers the more leisurely, less bah-Gawd-terrifying version of the sport.

I use a simple, composite craft, one that costs in the low hundreds. It’s stable, lightweight, and incredibly easy to use. It’s no Van Koeverden-baiter, but it’s perfect for the rec kayak enthusiast.

The amazing thing about the rec kayak is that there are junior ones available too, so it can become a true family pursuit, which it has with mine. Summer days at St. Joe’s have become a silly regatta, with my minions “G-Rock”, “Dub-C”, and “Sosuke” and their cousins  tearing around the bay, racing, splashing, and laughing, like lime green water bugs.

You must do this.

For me though, the kayak has become my meditation, my Zen moment in a cluttered, high decibel world. A setting sun, a glass-smooth surface, and the sound of the paddle gently piercing the water, and I am at peace.

You must do this too.

To discover something like this late in my life has been an absolute gift, one that I must attribute to my amazing family for introducing me to it.

Life comes at us at warp speed, with sound and fury.

Serenity can be hard to find.

Through kayaking I have found a little pocket of it for myself.

In fact, Serenity would be a fine name to christen my vessel.

Don’t even think about it, Tiger.