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Igniting a Spark

Okay… it might be a bit much to think that spending 30 minutes showing 120 kindergarten students two kayaks and the gear that goes with them will change their lives but I’d like to think that one or two of them might grow up to be paddlers. Or even a couple of their teachers. For the

All Dressed Up and Nowhere to Kayak

All Dressed Up and Nowhere to Kayak

3rd year in a row I drove to Royal City, Washington (where Sue and I used to own a 125 acre farm/orchard), garbed up in a drysuit, PFD, bootees and sprayskirt, and gave a short talk to the 6 kindergarten classes at Red Rock Elementary.

This year I took the F-1, an example of an Inuit (Greenland) kayak and the Mariner II, an example of a very modern, very fast sea kayak. One is a skin-on-frame with the only modern components being the skin (ballistic nylon) and the two-part polyurethane that makes it water-proof. The other is a state-of-the-art (2007) slender (21.5 inches), long (17’11”) kayak (rated as a “very fast kayak” by at least one rowing society in Puget Sound) made from Kevlar.

My wife, Sue, who is a ParaPro teacher at Red Rock, told me beforehand that about 20% of the kids probably spoke no English. This would be no problem as one of the

A few minutes later the kids turned this SOF kayak into a drum!

A few minutes later the kids turned this SOF kayak into a drum!

languages I’m fluent in is Spanish. However one of the vocabularies I’m not familiar with in Spanish is the kayaking vocabulary. So the kids and I just winged it as far as languages were concerned.

Royal City is practically the geographical center of Washington state; which falls, as it happens, in the desert. While the state’s motto is “The Evergreen State” a good 50% of the state is anything but evergreen. At least not naturally. Royal City is in the Quincy Irrigation District and the local farm crops are irrigated from the water pumped out of the Columbia River. So these children know water in the form of canals, rivers and lakes. To them the water in the summer is warm and the water in the winter is frozen. So the concept of hypothermia in the summer was foreign to them. As was the concept of big waves coming from different directions.

After I introduced them to the two very different kayaks I asked them which one they liked best and it was unanimous: They liked the kevlar Mariner II. It was sleek and modern and what’s not to like? But then Sue and I carried the F-1 around so that each

A lot of eager faces and bright eyes.

A lot of eager faces and bright eyes.

kid could touch it. Soon they discovered that the skin on frame kayak made a wonderful drum and once they had discovered that there was no stopping them. Every kid knows what a drum is and these kids soon made the neighborhood echo with their own rhythms. After that they liked the F-1 a lot more.

After explaining how the paddles worked (I had both a GP and a Euro Paddle) one thing they wanted to know was, “How do you stop?” (Paddle backwards!) Other questions were, “What do you do if you fall out?” (Climb back in!). “What if you tip over?” (Roll back up!). I demonstrated these maneuvers as best I could on the grass in 80F temperatures with no water in sight. By the time my 30-minute demonstration was over I could have used a dip in the pool. Too bad they don’t have one.

Are any of these kids going to become kayakers? Who knows; certainly not me. But they were certainly interested. And they were certainly cute!!!

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