Bow, stern, hull, blade, wet-exit, stroke, t-rescue, roll. If you know anything about kayaking, you recognize these terms. Most of us on Saturday, March 15, however, didn’t know any of these. That’s why we gathered at the YMCA in Missoula this spring afternoon; to learn the basics of kayaking and to find out how fun the sport really is.
Because of the space available at the Y and the nature of the activity, we had to split matches up into groups of 8. The first started at 2pm, ready to get into the action. After brief introductions, half of us jumped in the water with one instructor and started to get familiar with being in a kayak while the other half stayed on the pool deck with the other and learned about the anatomy of the boats. There’s one main thing a person needs to be comfortable with while kayaking: tipping over. It’s different than canoeing or sailing in that flipping your boat over is a normal part of the sport. If you’re not flipping over, you’re not doing it right!
Needless to say, there was no shortage of spills in the pool this afternoon. Everyone was soon familiar with the boats, strokes, and yes, getting wet. By 3:00 it was time for the 1st Annual Outdoor Explorers Aquatic Kayaking Olympics (title courtesy of instructor Ryan Miller). These Olympics consisted of two relay races involving teams standing on one side of the pool while their teammates paddled to the other end, turned around, and returned before switching and setting off again. The competition was close, intense……..and fun to watch!
Soon it was time for the second group of matches to learn. A different pair of instructors taught this group with a different, but no less successful, approach. The entire group got in the pool this time and matches helped each other figure out how to get back into the boats after flipping (self-rescue). After spending some time here it was time for some Sharks and Minnows, kayaking edition! The sharks had a surprisingly hard time catching these minnows with the prey ultimately emerging as the winner. Before we knew it our time at the YMCA was up.
“So what did we learn today?” asked one of the instructors. “THAT KAYAKING IS FUN!!!” said a little.
Although it was too cold on this March afternoon to kayak in one of western Montana’s many rivers, summer isn’t far away. One thing is for sure; the Outdoor Explorers have a new skill to try out in the water come the warm months of June, July and August!
A big thanks to all those who made this trip possible: the University of Montana Outdoor Program volunteers, Sussex School for the gear, and the YMCA for the pool space. Be sure to check out our Facebook page for more pics and stay tuned for our next adventure! Keep exploring