I grew up with water. Not in the sense of water sports, just in the sense that in the neighborhood communities of my Florida and Georgia youth, water was the common denominator. Rain, thunderstorms, sunshowers. Humidity. Giant adventure waterparks. Pools. Ponds, lakes, streams and hours spent playing in the mud, building fords, wading and swimming. Avoiding water snakes and alligators. Catching crawdads. In Florida there was also the ocean, either the Atlantic or the Gulf, and the heavy, thick humidity, salty air and permeating smell of fish and sunscreen which is a constant in the touristy beach towns of the east coast.
My siblings and friends and I spent hours upon hours upon hours in the water. Sometimes boats entered the equation, usually power boating (and *trying* to fish) or the occasional canoe or kayak along the placid, slow-moving rives of the Southeast and Midwest. When I moved to Oregon in 1996, all of that water in my life got replaced by snow and skiing, rain and fog and the beauty of our coastline, but the swimming, the boating, the hours upon hours upon hours spent with water as part of the equation, vanished. The immersion disappeared.
I didn't realize how much I had missed it until recently. Andy and I pretty officially have the kayaking bug.
There's a ton of water surrounding the greater Portland area, an entirely new way to explore and witness the world. The touristy, casual kayaking of my youth doesn't really apply to the kind of kayaking Andy and I want to do, so, in order to be safe about it, we recently participated in a full immersion sea kayaking course- fifteen hours over 2.5 days. We enjoyed it so much and learned enough that we signed up for a surf zone class the following weekend.
Unfortunately, this is a post without pictures because it's difficult to take pictures in such a dynamic environment. Part of the picture issue comes from not having a waterproof camera, and there was a whole lot of tossing oneself out of the boat in order to learn to get back in the boat (<= this is easier said than done). Even with the GoPro, in the case of the surf zone class there wouldn't have been much to see or hear (except me swearing a lot) or tumbling underwater. The surf zone class was a lot about learning that you are, in fact, Mother Nature's bitch and that yes, she will slap you around if she damn well feels like it. I have the beginnings of some pretty spectacular shiners on my hands and upper arms from that class.
In our case, Alder Creek's Full Immersion I (Sea Kayaking) course was taught by a Scotsman named Malcolm who's been paddling for over thirty years...the ease with which he sits and handles a boat made me occasionally want to throttle him. Strictly out of jealously, of course, but jealously and envy did tend to rear their ugly heads about the hundredth time I lost my balance off the kayak (we were doing balance exercises designed to help you understand the boat's tipping points vs. stability- I thoroughly understand the tipping point) while Malcolm grinned like a Cheshire cat, casually perched on his tippy kayak with no problems whatsoever.
Dammit all, I will be able to do that some day.
The course packs a ton of information into it from proper paddling technique to assisted and solo rescues. There are some basics of navigation, trip planning, weather proofing. I feel confident I can get out of a spray skirt now (yup, spent a lot of time underwater, my sinuses are really clear), and I learned a lot about currents, danger zones for kayakers on the water, basic waterway etiquette and proper gear.
The Surf Zone class was like a shortened version of the Full Immersion complete with Malcolm and one other instructor, Andrew-from-Wisconsin, except that it was like Full Immersion on steroids in a washing machine. Surf, rip currents, breakers, short squirrely boats and the icy cold Pacific submerged in fog make for a very different environment. I spent a lot of time underwater, getting my boat tossed over the top of me and generally getting all the arrogance smacked out of me. While I didn't do a lot (or really any, if I'm honest) *surfing* that day, I learned more about the environment of water and my comfort level than I have in a long, long while. At the end of the day, Andy finally caught one big wave in from the breaker zone all the way to the beach, his grin visible from 100 yards away. Cheshire cat. Apparently it's contagious.
For anyone looking to learn skills, I cannot recommend Alder Creek enough. There's a clear passion for the building of skills and a translation to safety and commitment to the world of water activities. I haven't met an instructor I didn't like yet. Paddle people are good people. I already can't wait to get in a boat again. [GRIN].