Comment: Failing and falling

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Crunching across the pebbled shore line, kayak instructor Gary, gathers up four paddles and shares them out among our group of nervous newbies. Clueless, we form a loose semi-circle around him and attempt to mimic his arms-outstretched, water-less, air-paddling techniques. In the event we fall out of the kayak and into the chilly water, Gary tells us we should simply grab the side of the boat and: “do our best impression of a seal going from sea to land”. This mental image fails to reassure me, however, his insistence that the life jackets will keep us afloat until help arrives is empowering.

Scattered across the broad body of water, little blobs of blue, white, orange, and red bob along in a seemingly random fashion. The colourful distant blobs are occupied by one, sometimes two, tiny paddling passengers. Suddenly one of the white blobs takes off and flies majestically across the flash, Gary tells us that “up to seventy” white swans frequent this spot. They cluster together along the most sheltered water which is close to a long stone embankment. Mature woodland occupies about two thirds of the shore line, the remainder has a gradual sloping pebbled beach where the brightly coloured kayaks and paddle boards are moored. This is where we will launch from.

Sit-on kayaks are shallow, flimsy bits of banana shaped plastic not much bigger than a baby’s bath tub. Uncoordinated paddling in tandem creates an alarming rocking motion which laps the water into the boat. The majority of it drains out of the kayak through little holes but some forms a worrying wet puddle in the seat. As the shore line gets farther and farther away the deep water grows rough and menacing and a sense of vulnerability grows with it.

Suddenly two members of our party accidentally capsize their boat and plunge into the inky black water. Lifeless, the upside down kayak drifts aimlessly. We gasp and hold our breath for an age until two familiar heads pop up to the surface. We raise the alarm and soon a rescue craft zooms to help them upturn the boat and clamber back aboard. Their peels of laughter bounce over the water, the relief is palpable. They paddle towards the shore, but take a second tumble in the shallows. Scrambling up to the water’s edge, back on to dry land, and still giggling, they declare that: “falling in was the best part, the water is lovely!”

Main Photo Credit: Filip Mroz via Unsplash

Val Fraser

Val Fraser is a trained journalist with over 12 years’ experience working on staff in various demanding media environments. She has authored/edited thousands of articles including news, travel and features. Val has authored/contributed to nine non-fiction books. A regular columnist, she stepped up to the role of Digital Editor in September 2022 and is responsible for the Sorted Magazine website.
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