Getting Started: Final Chapter
We began tracking Melissa Spangler’s first year of kayaking at the beginning of 2010. At that time she had been paddling just a few times and only in doubles provided for Meetup group outings. We wanted to see how far a new kayaker might progress with easy access to equipment, instruction and opportunities. By the year’s end Melissa had completed the 150 miles of the Puget Sound Challenge, learned how to roll and was developing a knack for paddling in tide races and rough water. Unfortunately an injury to her neck and shoulder—an overuse injury that was the result of kayaking, backpacking, golf and work-related activities—brought an end, for now, to her kayaking. There has been a long hiatus in this blog following her injury. She is still in physical therapy to treat nerve damage in her shoulder. For this last entry in this series on her progress as a kayaker we checked in with Melissa and asked her to sum up her year of kayaking.
The very first time I carried a kayak it was very heavy and I wondered: Who in their right mind would want to lug all this gear around for an hour on a lake? But once I was on the water I fell in love with kayaking immediately. The Puget Sound Challenge was the highlight of my life last year. I learned so much about safety and planning, even about the company you keep.
I got to try out some magnificent stuff and developed my own preferences. You can have ten people all telling you different stories about what works best for kayaking, but I learned that really meant what works best for them. Learning about my own preference, what worked best for me, was part of the journey.
A lot of kayakers are happy to go out on a calm sunny day and enjoy the scenery. I liked the scenery too, but I discovered I liked to paddle with more fervor. I liked challenges—that’s what I got hooked on. It was an adrenaline rush to roll. That was one of my favorite things to do. Tidal races were exhilarating. I craved intensity.
It’s not like a sport where you just show up with a ball and start to play. There are so many elements to kayaking—a lot to think about—but that didn’t deter me. I took pride in being well prepared. I’d get in the zone both while preparing for a trip and while paddling. I was constantly thinking about what’s next. Whether it’s a change in the route, the weather or the current. All of that made kayaking more interesting. You have to approach it with your eyes open.
Not being able to paddle now is very sad. I miss it terribly every day. I learned to think things through in kayaking and that helps me now think through how I treat my body and my injury. I learned a lot about balance. I feel a great loss but kayaking will be a part of my life forever. I will get back on the water.
Thanks to all who supported Melissa including Johnson Outdoors, Thule, Snap Dragon, Werner Paddles, Kokatat, GoPro, Kayak Academy and North Water.