Kayaker? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Paula   
Friday, 09 March 2007 20:07

Butterflies, dang, I hate the butterflies in my stomach.  ‘Okay, time to roll’ Julian prods me.  The lagoon is flat, clear water.  Compared to where I had flown from (Seattle), the water was even warm.  Topping it off, it was a beautiful day. ‘ Dang butterflies’.  Julian, a young blonde Argentine guide/instructor was paired off with me for my first kayak day.  An evaluation day on the Espolon.  We had ridden from El Campo to the little town of Futaleufu, picked out a bright yellow, large volume  kayak for me, outfitted it and made our way to ‘The Secret Lagoon’.   

We weren’t alone.  As we hauled our yaks down to the shore I caught a glimpse of a tall blonde man in a speedo and kayak regale showing some dry land exercises to a young kid, well, a young guy probably not much older then my son.  I recognized the instructor.  This was Chris Spelius, exChile owner and kayaker supreme!

‘Lets rrroll’ Julian prompts again. 

I can feel Chris’s eyes on me.  ‘Bloody butterflies.’  ‘’splash’’ ‘okay, I can do this, setup and sweep’  ”swoosth, splash” I try three times, Three times I feel my arm do the dreaded punch, three times my head comes up to fast.  Not a chance.  I finally pull the plug and wet exit. Chris shakes his head.

That’s how I started my kayak adventure.  It was like I had never been in a damn kayak before.

No excuses.  The roll I had, had gone on vacation and it wasn’t the same vacation I was on!  It is true that I was in an unfamiliar kayak, and a larger volume one at that.  Still, I didn’t expect that I would have been such a boat anchor.  It was by choice though.  I wanted the high volume boat, the type of boat you use on big water,  a different boat then I was used to.  Getting my skills to work with different outfitting was part of my plan to make me a better boater.  Plus, if I could make this work then maybe I would get a day or two on the Futa!

Julian was very patient.  After about a half hour of hands on training (where Julian would hold me while I was partially upside down while in the kayak and in the water) my roll began to re-appear.  First tries seemed to always fail.  Second try I would get up but it wasn’t pretty.

“We’ve got to get that cancer out of your roll”  Chris appeared in my peripheral vision.  “You probably had a roll but it has a lot of bad habits.  We’ve gotta fix those”.  “okay, show me another one, remember, boob to knee on the setup, push the forward blade out and wrist and twist”  “splash”  “swoosh, splash” ‘bloody hell’ “swoosh” .  I made it up on the second try. “not enough rotation and you are punching.  Got to get that cancer out.  Work on her Julian!”

After about 50 attempts and 20 rolls I was pretty dead.  Fortunately it was lunch time.  Time to crawl up the bank and collapse on the grass.  Food.  Did I really want food?  “Its getting better, you are almost at the promised land” Julian taunts me. 

The rest of the day didn’t go much better.  After lunch we all paddled out of the lagoon towards the Espolon.  “Okay we’re going to practice ferrying”  Chirs points at me first “Okay Paula, ferry out and behind the wood to the other side”. 

“Sure” I think to myself  “no problem, new boat, strange river, little confluence from the lagon, small riffle rapid, how bad can I blow this”  I timidly paddle up towards the edge of the eddy and through my bow into the oncoming water.  As you would expect the bow windshield wipes uncontrollable but I manage to get a couple of semi reasonable strokes in and recover a ferry angle.  Still, I’m bobbing and twisting in a very stiff manner.  Not good kayak form and a far cry from the comfort level I thought I had last summer.  Maybe I never did have that comfort level.  Ah yes, the doubts start creeping in.  I make it over to a nice sunny eddy on the opposite bank and watch the two other newbie kayakers make an attempt at a ferry.  Ash, the young kid, takes his shot and gets swept around and back into the recirculating pool we came to know as the MerryGoRound.  The boils and whirlpool flip Ash over and he wet exits before Chris can get to him for a bow rescue.  This is going to be a while.

After a couple of tries, Ash makes it over.  However, Bill, the other student, swims three times and calls it a day.  Julian , Chris and Andrew (third instructor) cross over and lead us down the rest of the upper Espolon.  The upper Espolon is a class I and II river.  Lots of wood to watch out for.  Slowly my skills I thought I had return and I’m able to put this new kayak where I want it in the mild riffles we had to work with.  Chris drills us in a couple of spots below class II drops and my confidence starts returning.  At the take out Chris has me do a river wide ferry.  Here, the water is moving much faster and I work a bit harder at keeping a good ferry angle.  This last drill feels pretty good. “Now your starting to look like a kayaker” I hear Chris from behind.

Last Updated on Friday, 09 March 2007 20:26