Out on the water again, and enemies of the recreational rower.
Right now I’m on vacation.
To cut to the chase, there’s a lake, there’s a boat, and this happens:
Sweaty Kid escapes the evil ergometer and becomes the baddest mofo on the water.
(If there are rowers reading this, they’re giggling at me because they can see that this boat is not the svelte, pencil-thin racing single I pretend it is – rather, it’s a bit of a tub; nice and wide and balanced for sculling rookies like me).
No more numbers. No more numerical feedback on every stroke. The scenery even changes.
I’m making canoers feel like slugs. I’m ratcheting up my stroke rate. I’m keeping up with motor boats! I’m distracting water-skiiers because I look so cool, gliding along! I’m– [Shortly after these flashes of semi-speedy brilliance, I will with great consistency find a way to nearly flip or otherwise embarrass myself, but it’s all in good fun.]
There is nothing like being out on the water again.
However, as I remembered today, there are a few elements that can undermine a row pretty quickly.
- Wind. If I haul my operation out of the inlet toward the main lake only to find a panorama of whitecaps and sailboats, I know that maybe today’s a good day to throw on sneakers and hit the trails instead.
- Blisters. There I am, cruising along, when I reach the end of the lake and it’s time to turn around. First I’ll grab a sip of water. As I make to reach for the bottle, I become aware that my hands feel bonded to the oars. Oh no, oh no, oh no. Gingerly, I extract them to survey the damage. In some places, my skin has been stripped clear off like wet newspaper. In others, angry red welts are blooming with fluid. For the next week, simple tasks like washing dishes, petting the dog, and flossing my teeth will become silent acts of masochism.
- A bad point. If I’m out there trying to get a little speedwork in, nothing wrecks the deal quicker than a bad point. Before each piece, I check in front and crane my neck around to look behind. I’ll pick a target to point on from the front and the back, and then I hit my watch and I’m off! I’m blasting along, waking out innocent kayakers, disrupting the paths of surprised ducks and loons, when gradually I realize I’m… not where I should be. Like, not even close. At all.
- Thunderstorms. Maybe it’s just a New England thing, but time and time again I head out for a long row on the sunniest, clearest of days, only to be punked an hour later by a pop-up thunderstorm. There are few moments more terrifying than discovering that you are
- 20 minutes away from the dock
- the tallest object within a half-mile radius
- directly beneath a cluster of black clouds with your hair standing up
- Powerboats. It’s uncanny; powerboats are magnetized to me. There are no other rowers on this lake, ever, so the novelty of a strange-looking girl in a strange-looking boat is too much for a powerboater to resist. “Well sheeeit Hank, you reckon that’s a kayak?” “Naw, too big to be a kayak”“Let’s get right up all close-like and have us a look-see.” What is it? Powerboaters need to find out. It doesn’t matter if they’re fishermen trolling for bass, families out for a tubing session, or hicks with a thirty of pbr, they gun the motor, zip right up next to me and sidle along for minutes at a stretch. When they get bored, they zoom away and I’m scrabbling pitifully with my oars through a monstrous wake, getting drenched by waves, and trying not to flip over and drown.
But I can’t find much to complain about today: the lake is calm, the sky is blue, and the powerboat crowd will be laying low until Saturday and Sunday. Aw, yeah.