Thursday, March 3, 2011

Kayaking in winter, Alberta style!

When I tell folks that I am currently enjoying kayaking lessons, the first question that they normally ask is ‘Are they inside?’

Bearing in mind that I live in Edmonton, Alberta and my lessons began in early February; this seems like a ridiculous question considering that the average February temperature here is -12 degrees Celsius!

But then again, this IS Alberta that we are talking about and there is no doubt that Albertans are resilient and also quite ingenious when it comes to finding ways to have fun in the winter!

Yes, the kayaking lessons are inside! Together with a group of nine other keen people, we are halfway through enjoying four weekly sessions, aimed at teaching basic white-water kayaking skills.

The United Albertan Paddling Society is a white-water kayaking organization focused on introducing both youth and adults to kayaking as an active lifestyle choice.

So far, two weeks into the course and the emphasis is to have fun. Yet the lessons are challenging and also a pretty good workout. (Just ask my oblique’s today!)

During our first lesson our instructor Rob had us practise a wet-water exit; a manoeuvre that requires the paddler to turn the kayak upside down and safely exiting the boat. Whilst seemingly a little daunting, even the most fearful amongst us (namely me) managed to execute this exercise without swallowing all of the pool water!

We then practised a few basic paddling strokes; forward and reverse strokes and forward and reverse sweeps, and then it was time to play. Water polo and relay races made the lesson even more fun, yet also had us practising our new skills!

My inner child escaped within minutes into the first lesson. I (along with others) had this incessant need to just have fun, paddle as hard and as fast as I could, race with others and just kid around!

Week two consisted of further paddling strokes followed by basic edging, and straight draws; skills that are needed for when we learn how to T-rescue (flip upright assisted by another boat). These actions seem fairly manageable in the safety of the Scona swimming pool, but they are necessary skills for kayaking on the river.

With two more lessons to come, the plan is to learn how to complete the T-rescue, edging, bow draws and also how to ‘roll’ the kayak (the roll is optional although by week two, this is already something the whole group wants to accomplish!).

Yes, I am very glad that the lessons are inside ... but spring is just around the corner ;-)