I have a problem.

img_4718aI have a problem, maybe a disease, perhaps a severe condition, and the first step is admitting it, accepting it and knowing it deep inside yourself. The problem is called kayaking and I’m all eaten up with it, like a kid who has rolled in a patch of poison ivy (I’ve done that too) and will pay the price for weeks to come… in my case, for life. I first started noticing signs of this ailment last week, when reality hit me like a brick. Quickly my mind raced to a page in a William Nealy book where he illustrated a kayak-sick person, oozing with paddle junkie symptoms. How did I not notice this problem weeks, months and years ago, during the development of my paddlesports career? I was blind I guess, blinded by the sheer bliss that kayaking has no doubt brought to my life. As I explained to my wife on the drive to Wrightsville Beach for our week vacation, that I would be heading directly to the beach to go surfing as soon as we arrived, rudely perhaps, leaving she and my son with her family, who had been waiting all weekend for us to arrive, I felt a familiar twinge of awkwardness nagging at me like a pesky mosquito buzzing around my ear. My rationale, as most paddlers or surfers would understand, is that you gotta get it while the gettin’s good. See, Bertha was out there churning up swell, and Storms of the Tropical nature don’t usually sit around for too long. My time on the water was imminent as far as I was concerned.

Bertha on July 12th, 2008, just a couple hundred miles off the coast

Bertha on July 12th, 2008, just a couple hundred miles off the coast

You might have a matter of hours that the waves are good. In the mind of a paddler, or a surfer in this case, nothing, barring a true emergency situation, truly takes precedence over good conditions.

Shari took this one shot of me during the surf session.

Shari took this one shot of me during the surf session.

img_4443 After all the crying was over we ended up going to the beach together.  I got to surf, Mason got to play in the sand and Shari hung out with her sis on the beach. So, it didn’t turn out badly. I should add that it never turns out badly. I’ve said it before and will once again that my wife is my biggest sponsor. She has always respected paddling as my passion and career and I love her for that.

Back to the point of the story, “the problem.” The problem is all the time you spend doing logistics, people you inconvenience, time you spend on the phone figuring out who you are going with, when and where, time you spend online monitoring river levels, swell predictions, tides and weather, blah blah. Not to mention, all the fuel you burn to get to the water only to spend a couple hours in said water. (As I write this I’m thinking that man-made play spots, waves, rivers, i.e. whitewater parks are the answer to the fuel crisis and kayak-disease.)  It’s a major inconvenience that you place on yourself as a paddler, your family and friends, but it is worth it.  Whether or not anyone understands why you showed up late for dinner, why everyone had to wait on you, why you had to run out of a family gathering of one kind or another: in-laws, employers, spouses, girlfriends, boyfriends, sons, daughters, aunts, uncles, they all will feel that twinge, that hassle, that aggravation at some point, but believe me, it is worth it, for me anyway.  No one will ever truly grasp the reasoning for your actions as a paddler unless they are one too.

Shari in the Impex boat we borrowed.

Shari in the Impex boat we borrowed.

Our makeshift lean-to for the severe thunderstorm

Our makeshift lean-to for the severe thunderstorm

(Shari and I spent an early morning touring around Masonborough Island and doing some fishing.  Kayak cockpits and a sand dune served as perfect shelter while we waited out some heavy rainstorms. Even though she doesn’t kayak often it’s nice to share the feeling of adventure in nature with her from time to time.)

…I knew this guy one time, a kayaker, named John.  He was getting married one fine spring day in the late 1990s.  All the boaters he knew were invited. It rained very hard the night before the wedding.  Nobody showed up.  He didn’t harbor any hard feelings because he understood.  True story.

My boater friends should very well recall at the time of my wedding that I stressed to them the importance of going boating if things were running on that special day.  I meant it too, because I know how it would feel to be cooped up at a ceremony while natures liquidly goodness drained out of the watersheds without me riding along with it.

I may be sick, I may have a disease, but I’ll learn to cope with it as long as I can.  Kayaking is worth it.  After all, I hear this particular strain is contagious….


Spencer Cooke, Effort Inc

3 Responses to “I have a problem.

  • Amen Spencer. ” I’ve said it before and will once again that my wife is my biggest sponsor. She has always respected paddling as my passion and career and I love her for that.”

    If it was not for my wife, I would not be where I am today!

    Daniel Dutton

  • Nicely worded spence.
    I hope you had fun on your vacation.

Trackbacks & Pings

  • A Southward Bound Roadie… « Downstream Movement :

    […] The addictiveness of kayaking is sometimes compared to a drug addict’s addiction to drugs. While that might not present the healthiest image, it portrays the seriousness of the matter. Unlike drugs however, kayaking provides that “fix” to the addict in a much healthier manner. Here we have Kev England, who can’t see past his next fix…his “own worst enemy.” Check out Spencer Cooke’s well-written words on this topic, of what he describes as his “problem.” […]

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