I learned how to “wet-exit” a hardshell kayak this week. The maneuver involves tucking, slapping, tugging and “taking off your pants.” I know I have your attention now.
I took a Level 1 kayak course withRocky Mountain Outdoor Center. My instructor, Paul Zimmer, referred to the final step as “taking off your pants.” (He later said “taking off your boat pants.”)
When you flip your kayak, you must tuck your head to avoid hitting rocks. Then, in a step that is most likely only for instructional purposes, slap the bottom of the boat three times. Next, find the pull tab on the splash skirt, pull it free from the lip of the kayak, put your knees together and “take off your pants.” The move is really just sliding out of the kayak, but it does feel like taking off tight pants.
My ear canals are not meant to go upside down in water. Especially not at this altitude. I wore earplugs for years as a child. I thought I had outgrown my ear issues, but I have not. I got the tiniest bit of water in my ear on my first upside down flip, and I had a bit of trouble hearing for the next few hours. So while I crushed the wet exit, I really focused on the lesson to be sure I didn’t go under again – and I did not.
Paul took me to a private lake for the course. I felt like a VIP to be on a solo instruction course on a private lake. I learned names for strokes, like stern draw and brace. I also learned how to carve. Carving is fun, it’s like riding a berm on a mountain bike. It involves paddling while riding the edge of the kayak to make a big, sweeping turn.
River kayaks are tippy and hard to paddle straight. Paddling forward required short strokes close to the boat.
Paul said I was “experienced for L1,” and at the end of the lesson he gave me a few advanced strokes, which I’ve already forgotten. Once again, I was impressed with the level of professionalism and expert instruction I received. Paul was fantastic. We met when RMOC took me duckying through Browns Canyon.
Paul told me he prefers teaching to all else. He explained everything perfectly. I felt safe and well-supported. I never felt rushed or dumb. Actually, he made me feel like a genius. I’m not sure I’ve ever been complimented so much. I like compliments.
While I have a lot of experience in kayaks, inflatable and flatwater, I had never put on a splash skirt or flipped upside down or been in a playboat. The hardshell kayaks I grew up with were designed for flatwater and were quite long.
The idea of this lesson is to introduce kayak skills; Level 2 courses take the kayaks on the Arkansas River. I feel prepared for that L2 course, but I’m not sure I enjoy being so confined in the kayak. Plus, I can’t easily access beers with a splash skirt on. Priorities.