Friday, August 10, 2012

It is summer and no one wants to do anything with you. So, that is ok .Do something fun by yourself. Consider doing some off shore recreation and consider the kayak as your mode of transportation across a river or lake. It has been around for centuries and there was even extreme kayaking over rapids in the Olympics . With only hours of lessons you are ready to go and you can even fit the kayak on the roof of your car.
The kayak was an invention of the Eskimo. It was a tiny boat made from animal skin and bones used for hunting in frigid northern waters. The word kayak means hunter’s boat which was an essential tool in the icy struggle between life and death for fish. Now the kayak is still being used in the struggle between life and death but now the struggle involves the extreme use by living dangerously rowing through rough water.
Then there are the rest of us just wanting to row down a nice calm river. There are those of us that are looking for an experience a little less taxing on our will to live another day. The water is a perfect solution to relax in after the hectic days on land. Even the gentle sway of the water gives us a gentler rhythm and relaxes us like the slight sway of a baby’s cradle.
You would think that the typical person who would like this kayaking thing would be someone in a remote area with lots of time on his hands. Instead, now there are a lot of very busy people kayaking looking for that one hour of their day to devote to something relaxing and fun. For example, take the typical New Yorker that has a pretty intense life. The Hudson River is ironically the perfect tonic. I mean emotional tonic. Those waters are probably still somewhat polluted so don’t drink it but the river is inviting to stroll down in a boat, yes even a boat as small as a kayak.
Eric Stiller has devoted the last 17 years of his life to bringing kayaking to the masses of New York City. His Manhattan Kayak company is full of people who take off their business suits and attire to strip down to their bathing suits and stretch and prepare for their session on the Hudson River. He even offers a stand up paddle board which is a hybrid between surfing, canoeing and kayaking. That looks and feel really weird, like you are just floating.
His father Allen Stiller imported some of the first modern kayaks to this country from Europe. The family tradition is still going strong in his family. He instructs all that rent his equipment to row properly. He teaches people to use their body in the rowing stroke because you put pressure on your mid section. On the board, watch your balance, bend your knees slightly and use your hip movement with the oar.
With a comfort zone, you can have a skill that you can possess for the rest of your lives. Despite the urban surroundings, Stiller offers an experience that goes back to kayaking’s origins minus the ice flows and killer whales. The Hudson River does have it’s own unique hazards. The water is deep and rough with unpredictable currents and then there is the occasional 15 story tall cruise ship that crawls into port.
Why do it? Well on the river there isn’t any traffic, no siren emergency vehicles, no trash trucks, no cars and most of all no people. Well, there is a toss up between the comfort of leaving behind all the negatives of Manhattan and then having to deal with the negatives of taking a dip in the water conditions.
Back in the 1970’s the Hudson River was considered to be one of the most polluted waterways in America. Decades of cleanup has now resulted in a river that is now safe for swimming. While the word Kayak is known to mean Man’s Boat there is no shortage of women out there rowing. Many women like to paddle board. They are not as macho as the men that are too vain to let others see them fall off the boards and get up again. It is much easier to simply sit in the kayak so, that is where you will find the men.
All around the globe women are entering the small boats. Germany’s Freer Hofmeister holds the world’s record for the fastest kayak circle navigation of Australia. You don’t have to be her. Just take the four hour paddle basics class, be sure to rotate your body at your rib cage and not at your shoulders, turn at your hips and not from your shoulders. Buy yourself a kayak or paddle board and get out anywhere there is water. Take some pressure figuratively and in reality off your arms and shoulders and move with your core and you will feel better about everything.

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