‘Adventuring through still waters: How I use kayaking as meditation’

Dec 08, 2019
The view of the water from her kayak. Source: JD Kew

I love that moment not quite awake when you realise it is morning. It’s even better when you realise that you’re not going to work that day. Struggling into the swimming gear, I don a life jacket with one solid click. Then I slap on warpaint sunscreen, sunglasses and a broad brimmed hat in the vain hope of fending off a bit more sun damage. I tug on my gloves, hop into my kayak and dip the blade of my paddle into the water; on that first blissful stroke I breathe deeply rejoicing in that moment. It’s like meditation on water.

Forget the lotus position and “ohm”, just lean into the action and the rhythm begins dip, stroke, lift again dip, stroke, lift. Even watching the water dripping off the blade into the waves is beautiful, like diamonds in the sun.

On my most recent adventure I was gazing at a school of fish, an octopus and several small stingrays gliding effortlessly across the sand. Sometimes I have had the joy of paddling with dolphins, penguins and turtles. I never know what I will find out there on the water. Wherever possible I invite others to join me and I’m yet to find one person ambivalent about the experience. There is always a resounding “yes” when I ask people if they would like to go again.

My plastic kayak resembles a large bright red baby bath. I bought four of them second-hand more than a decade ago. We have taken them down rivers, creeks and bays faithfully with no fuss. A cursory rinse, we hose it and it returns to the garage upright like a sentinel awaiting orders. It has had every possible adornment a foot rest, a paddle tether, a new seat. The accessories cost more than the old kayak.

Apart from the joy I experience, kayaking represents memories of good times. The time spent with people I cared for and fun memories of laughter with them and their children. It reminds me of days long gone when my children could be entertained with a sandwich, a swim and a sandbar. When the tide came in the sandbar vanished; it was time to paddle up the river to go home before the sun set.

I don’t know if my children think of those days as fondly as I do, but it was my persistence and insistence that allowed me to purchase these old kayaks against all odds. It has afforded us this low cost happiness for years.

On our first day on the local river in our motley kayaks, we bumped into a man in a flash modern kayak.

“Where did you get those kayaks from?” he asked, bemused.

“We bought them,” I sniffed.

“They’re so old!”

“Ah yes that’s true but they’re ours. Not many families can boast a kayak each,” I said.

“True.”

He had not seen such old kayaks before. We chatted a bit longer and it turned out he was the state manager of the company that manufactured our kayaks — wasn’t that an odd coincidental meeting?

Our Easter tradition is to always spend it on the river with the kayaks. We plan a long picnic because the shops are mostly closed and as a nod to old religious customs, we enjoy a feast of seafood on the riverbank. The most recent multicultural feast was croissants with homemade mulberry jam for breakfast, stir fried prawns and vegetables with Hokkien noodles for lunch and sweet sticky Baklava for dessert-total indulgence, all day.

After the feast my companion looked at me and said:

“So, what are we going to do now?”

“Absolutely nothing,” I replied.

We plonked ourselves onto pillows and laid down under the shade shelter and read books. The perfect day.

Recently we’ve been introduced to visiting international PhD students and have taken them out into the bush setting to enjoy our wildlife and these old kayaks. Almost on cue we summon goannas, wallabies and bird life of all colours. We throw a barbecue and do our bit for international diplomacy for Australia and the students all clamour to go again.

I don’t know if the man with the flash kayak is still the company’s manager but I’m still happy in my kayak.

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