Hobby shopping on a kayak

Originally published on Writing Out Loud

That, my friends, is the Yarra River – but not as you may know it. This isn’t the city end, obviously, but up closer to its beginnings: near Warrandyte in Melbourne’s east. The site of my latest hobby-shopping trip, thanks to RedBalloon.

I had been wanting to try kayaking for ages. My last attempt was ten years ago when Steve and I were on our honeymoon, but I pretty much sat in the back of it slacking off while he did all the work. (Luckily not an omen for our marriage.) (At least, I don’t think so.) Since then it’s been kind of annoying to have that reputation, so I wanted to prove to myself – and him – that I can do it.

I put a lot of thought into the right location for my long-awaited attempt at solo kayaking. I like to look at the ocean but I’m not too keen on being in it so decided a river would be best – I love a lazy flowing river. And the Yarra proved the perfect combination of being easy for a beginner with the challenge of a few small rapids.

First up, let’s get this bit out of the way. Yes, I looked a bit weird.

Have we all had a laugh at my expense? Okay good, moving right along…

The day began as most group outings do: the early arrivers (of which I’m always one) waiting for the latecomers. I didn’t mind too much this time, as it gave me time to sort out my family – feeding baby Iris before I headed out onto the water, letting Abbey have a dip in the river, and appointing Steve as Head Of Photography for the day.

I then put forward my case to have a kayak all to myself. I just didn’t want to be subject to falling in unless it was my own fault – and anyone who knows the Yarra’s reputation will understand why I was keen to at least keep my face afloat. And then it was time to go.

I started with an interesting paddling style, my shoulders and back wanting to do all the work, but soon realised that if I kept that up I wouldn’t last the trip. When I focused on my breathing, kept my body stable and used my core strength (and quite frankly, to find I have a four-month-old and some core strength was a nice surprise!), I could have paddled all day.

Steering was the hardest part. As well as getting my paddling style right, I also learnt how to use my body to help, because the kayak responds to your hip movements as well. And it’s this that can make or break your ‘staying in’ ability! But I managed to guide myself down the river pretty well… that is, I only crashed into a couple of rocks and branches along the way. Not too bad for a first attempt, right?

And the funnest part? The rapids! Nothing too hard, but it was fun to figure out which way to best approach each rapid, and then just relax into enjoying it once I’d committed to a decision. Our guide let us hang around a couple of the rapids to have a ‘surf’ in the waves and a play around with different angles and paddling styles. Some of the group hung back, keen to keep moving, but I kept playing in the rapids. Lots of fun!

I'm in the lead! (Not a race, but still...!)

Although I didn’t fall in (which either means I was okay at it, or wasn’t daring enough) I was soaking wet by the end of it, but I didn’t mind. Each drop of water felt like a drop of the river’s peacefulness; by the end of the day I was more relaxed than I’d been in ages. I think being outside, getting out of the routine that you fall into when you have young kids, and trying something on the edges of your comfort zone has that effect.

These sorts of experiences are great for hobby-shopping – and I think I’ve found my new favourite hobby. I can picture our family of four paddling down a river in a couple of kayaks – when the baby’s a bit older, anyway.

Now, where’s the nearest kayak for sale?


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