Three Lessons

BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! I drag myself out of bed and stumble into the car, towards freedom. When I step out hours later, I have left my house but arrived at my home. I quickly dance my way into a wetsuit, squeeze into a neoprene skirt, and suction a helmet to my head. I jump into my whitewater kayak, slide down the rocks and into the icy chaos of the rapids. Whitewater bubbles around me as I dodge a jagged rock, contouring my body to avoid the impending collision. The paddle’s blade slides into the foamy current and I twirl into a surf. Like a surfboard in the ocean, I can play with the wave’s energy in my little boat. Water rushes under me as I carve right and left, slicing the bow of my kayak into the river’s fleshy current. My edge catches the current and the mighty river throws me into the air.

Kayaking is a way to reconnect, to explore and to revere Mother Earth. Modern life rarely leaves me time to admire the world in which we live. On the water I don’t worry about writing college essays, getting my homework done, what people think of me, or the girl I like. On the water I am free.

Another day, I dip my hat into the salty water, dumping the ocean onto my head. Ahhhhhhh, that’s nice. I turn in the seat of my ocean kayak. Looking around I see nothing and I see everything. There is no land, not even an island, yet the horizon is filled with activity. Seagulls swirl overhead, occasionally diving for their supper. The sun dances off of the asymmetric waves. Wind rushes through the salt-encrusted curls of my hair. The ocean allows me to be alone, even as I turn to smile at my dad.

Paddling is a family birthright. I remember my dad teaching me to steer a canoe on our first overnight when I was eight. I remember family trips to New Hampshire to canoe along one of its magnificent rivers. I remember my dad dragging my brother and I out of bed before sunrise to drive to a river hours away and play in its powerful currents and serene eddies. Now my brother and I drag my dad out of bed to drive to the river.

I pull my rugged Grumman canoe onto the muddy shore of the pastel-painted marshes and dragonfly filled bends of the Ipswich River. I am in Monet’s head; colors blur, only an impression remains, an impression of serenity and freedom, an impression of paddling. As night falls I rub the blisters the wooden paddle has tattooed onto my palms. The sun has set but the river continues its lazy course, water trickling over the derelict beaver dam.

Paddling sets me free; it is my freedom, my temple, my serenity.


When Adventure Kayaker reader Koby Michaels had to write an essay explaining his interests for his university applications, he composed this short piece. The 18-year-old is now enjoying his first semester at the University of British Columbia. Follow a twitter feed of Koby’s writing and video editing @kobymichaels.



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