Apprentice Kayakers

An Ode to a Pert Little Boat
By Richard Manning
  |  Gorp.com

My first draw to kayaking has absolutely nothing to do with fun, but rather an abhorrence of humanity. I came to the sport only after moving from the northern Rockies to Oregon's coast. Montana, where I lived before, is full of wilderness. There, I walked my way to solitude. Oregon is full of people but rimmed by an ocean that is not, so one paddles to solitude, or semi-solitude. I judge the world to have achieved its proper balance between humanity and everything else breathing when it is filled only with my wife, Tracy, and me and everything else breathing.

We go together. But not so closely together as to allow our separate wills to be contained in a joint kayak, otherwise known as a double. These are extra long kayaks with two cockpit holes, an arrangement that allows a couple to hang upside down and contemplate mortality in tandem. They have further advantages. They are screaming fast and track like a shot arrow, but we had nonetheless already decided we would leave the doubles for others, the sort of marrieds who parade in public in matching windbreakers and inscribe each others' names on vanity license plates. We preferred to hang separately, a decision that narrowed the field of issues at the kayak store.

Of course, to a normal couple, the decision to buy two kayaks instead of one would have complicated, not settled matters. Two cost a lot more money, a fact that causes the financially fainthearted to hedge: compromise on quality to economize, at least on hers. Usually, this downscaling works through the members of the couple each adopting a customary role, profligate and gatekeeper, say, or, further distilling these terms, male and female. Tracy and I can play that game and have, but it is the measure of the easy fluidity of our marriage that we know a game when we see one and play only to the degree that it is entertaining. With serious business such as sex, music, decent coffee, decent food, wilderness, and wilderness gear before us, we plunge straight ahead of the same mind. Which is to say we had already decided to bust the bank and did so.

"It's a sexy little boat," our teacher said as he nudged us away from the section of the store holding the cheaper bathtubs that are poly kayaks and toward the sleek, shiny fiberglass models, clean of line, erect of bow, pert of stern.


Published: 30 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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