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Unexpected Lesson Learned

I went out on a solo paddle on Monday in a slow moving river, and it was a last minute decision to go. I hadn't been out in a month due to either work, weather, or family things going on that always managed to keep me out of the water. But this time, the window of opportunity, although short, was a large enough opening for me if I dove just right. So I did.

Now in a hurry to pack up some gear, a change of clothes, and other things, I grabbed my yak off the rack on my shed, did a quick look inside, saw the ends of my 2-piece paddle sticking out, loaded it up and ran to the truck with it. My wife was good enough to give me a drop off and car swap so that my truck would be waiting for me at the take out. It was very muddy at the put-in, and there's a hill that needs negotiated, so after dropping my boat and gear, I was more concerned watching her drive my Ridgeline through the muck without rolling over.

Once she was gone, I moved my kayak into the water, climbed in, pulled up my splash deck and grabbed the 2-piece paddle as the current grabbed me and started moving me along. As I stuck one end into the other, something didn't work. I started to think, "What the hecks wrong with this!" just as I looked up at the blades. One was my main paddle, the other my back up. They are NOT compatible shafts. Crap. I had two halves of two different paddles, seven miles to the take out, about 2 hours until the gate at the take out is locked at dusk and no time to wait for my wife to bring me the other paddle half within this time-frame. I didn't think I'd be in a rush, but now things weren't looking as good. Did I mention I have a recreational kayak, so it's not very fast?

Well, I decided to single blade it. And I have no experience single blading any craft. But the bigger issue was that this was only my 4th trip in this 14' LL Stingray since I got it this Fall. I haven't really nailed getting it to track straight, so I tend to veer back & forth a lot. Well, that was exacerbated a bit with a single blade, to say the least. From one bank to the other. Back and forth I went. I tried some different strokes I'd read in passing here on P-net and seen in some links I'd followed, and started getting it a little straighter as I went.

By about the 3rd mile, I was keeping it about as straight as I did with my double blade. But my hands were getting sore from the end of the paddle shaft that is not meant to be a handle for single blading. So I recognized a place my wife could meet up with me, called with a nice compliment on how great a wife she is, and after she laughed and asked what it was I wanted, I asked if she wouldn't mind grabbing the proper other half of my paddle and bringing it to me. We only live about 2 miles from where I was asking her to meet me, so she agreed, and I got the matching set of mismatched paddles that resulted in two properly matched paddles.

Now this is where the unexpected part came from. I had about 4 miles to go and 1 hour left to reach the take out before dusk, and really had to hump it. But I noticed a huge change in my stroke with the double blade after a minute or two, and I was keeping the thing straight as an arrow! Could it be that this screw up provided a nice learning tool, forcing me to change my stroke for a single blade in a way that taught me how to track better with a double?! I was very surprised, but that was the case. No more veering and double, triple or quadruple stroking on one side to get it back. No more need to look sideways to see where I wanted to go. Straight forward, slight correction here and there, and much faster, less tiring. It was great. I reached the take out in about 45 minutes, and escaped before lock up.

It turned out to be a nice paddle, although a little more tiring than usual due to a little different paddling style for the first half. And the unexpected lesson was refreshing. As I said, I do tend to screw up some things now and then, and this is not the first time I've learned something from it. Hopefully, it won't be the last. Maybe it's because it's happened to me so many times, but I'm finding more and more that instead of being hard on myself for the mistake, I should welcome the occasional adjustment, for one never knows what lessons will be learned.

Written by: Daniel Steely - Fishers, IN

For more great stories: See the Archive!

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