Canoeing– Day 17
The main objectives for my boat based challenges (canoeing, sailing and rowing) are firstly not to drown and secondly, not to capsize. Capsizing into the sea, in itself, isn't the worst thing that could happen but capsizing and then attempting to haul myself back into the boat, in the tightest fitting wetsuit known to man, in front of a group of strangers, is in the top 3 indignities which I am looking to avoid during this whole thing.
This was fresh in my mind as I made mental post-it notes driving down to Porthpean Beach to meet Kevin, the instructor at St Austell Canoe Club. He made the introductions and I was delighted to see a familiar face there, who was also having a go for the first time. Paperwork done, I went to my car to get into my wetsuit. After my Stand Up Paddle challenge, I chucked the wetsuit into the garage, where it usually festers until the next time I pluck up the courage to go back in the sea. I had obviously forgotten that I was now a professional athlete and need to take care of my stuff. I dusted off the cobwebs and then spent a good five minutes fighting to get into the damn thing.
Once in, I waddled my way over to the boat area, where I was given a life jacket and what can only be described as a fetching, waterproof kilt (or splashback). Whilst Kevin was explaining what it did, I was just thinking, whatever, it hides my bum! We had a quick briefing and then lugged the boats down to the beach. Kevin told me how to hold the paddle and how to sit in the boat. What Kevin didn't know is that I have already canoed a couple of years ago on my friend, Kat's hen party. Essentially, what happened was that at one point, as we moored up to the pub pontoon, we were accosted by a group of stags, who encouraged us to line up the boats. I was in the middle of the pack, when two alcohol-fuelled stags raced each other along the raft of boats, my paddle was sent flying into my face, causing a full-on nosebleed. I, therefore, viewed the paddle as my potential foe, to be treated with respect.
I managed to get in the water without capsizing, thankfully, as there were a number of families enjoying the remnants of the evening and we all know kids can be cruel. The launch was successfully accomplished. I can’t tell you what a great feeling it was, bobbing around in the little boat, surrounded by the most beautiful stretch of coast. Then the whole club, about 20 boats, paddled a couple of inlets down on to Charlestown. I can’t say that the paddling wasn’t hard on the arms, but it was well worth the effort.
At Charlestown, we all paddled into the harbour and were greeted by a dozen teenagers bombing off the side of the harbour wall. As they got more confident, they started to take a run and then bomb, hoping to hit one of our boats. It was all done in good jest, but I had my objectives in mind and was not going to let one of those lemmings ruin it, so I swiftly made my way back out to sea.
Canoeing back was much easier, as we had the wind behind us. This gave me a chance for leisurely chats with a number of the group. Again, all ages and all abilities and it seemed like a very friendly and social club. Once we got back to the beach, we had a good half hour of what I can only describe as “titting about.” There was titting about with balls, titting about by standing up and then the dreaded titting about in a raft formation. This tapped directly into the fears of capsizing and nosebleeds but I wasn’t going to wimp out. I lined my boat up and clung to my neighbours’ boats for dear life, as races went on up and down, before one competitor would fall into the sea. It was the best team bonding I’ve seen so far.
After saying my goodbyes, I left the rest of the club to enjoy a BBQ in the field, whilst I went back to my car and repeated the bout with my wetsuit; my new nemesis.
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