-- Last Updated: Aug-16-11 1:53 AM EST --
I'm 63 and have been noticing creeping limitations.
I think one of the things we older folks have to be aware of is the lack of understanding of our aging limitations on the part of younger paddlers. Last Fall, I posted an account of a bad whitewater swim I had. I have been active in water all my life, but this - among other things - was a wake-up call.
I described in that post how the cold water immediately sapped my strength, making it difficult for me to pull myself to safety after swimming 150 yards. During that time, I bounced over rocks, etc., and wound up with a significant shoulder injury - one that continues to cause pain and for which surgery is expected, based on MRI results.
The trainers in our group are younger people (most whitewater people are) who do not understand that aging involves a daily diminution of performance ability. I have had to put my foot down when they say I'm now ready for such-and-such river, or that I should be handling Class 4 by next year.
Because I was not completely aware of my diminishing capabilities (who really can be?), I suffered an injury that has curtailed much of my paddling activities over the past year.
And, though I soloed a plane in my youth, also a helicopter, after only several hours of training, I have yet to get a predictable roll in a kayak. My efforts likely contributed to my shoulder injuries.
This year, I have been munching-out on the pain-killers every time I paddle. How do they affect performance?
One member in our community, Jack L, sometimes takes some ribbing here because he has no interest in rolling. Actually, I would suggest he is looking out for himself in the best possible way - a way that does not result in his being shut out of paddling for exceeding his limitations.
I think it is important for those of us who are aging to be aware of our increasing limitations - and to not allow younger paddlers to encourage us toward exceeding our possible limitations.
Just because I was able to handle increasing whitewater challenges, and getting gung-ho about my increasing abilities, did not mean I was able to easily take a bad swim - which, by the way, was in rapids that were significantly below what I had been handling all summer.
I think this is a really good question because there is a need for more understanding in this area. The paddler demographic is skewed toward the older population - except for whitewater - and there is a need for more discussion on this topic.
It is not easy on the ego, to face diminishing abilities, but if we learn to take care of ourselves, accounting for growing limitations, I believe we can all paddle to the end.
There are worse ways to go than with a paddle in one's hands.
By the way, I am seriously considering buying one of those electric trolling motors for kayaks - not for whitewater, of course, but for my fishing SOT. That way, if I hit a wall with my shoulder situation, or encounter a need to return to the put-in more quickly than I can paddle (approaching storm, etc.), I have the motor.