The water has always been a close friend, and swimming my summertime joie de vivre. I am an urban gal at the core, but nothing brings me happiness quite like the ocean blue.
My family and I, all probably made up 90% of water, tried our hand at the paddle with City Kayaking in Dublin, a 2-hour kayaking round trip on the River Liffey. Congregating at the company’s small trailer near the Samuel Beckett bridge, guests are provided a group locker for storage, a vest, an oar, and, in cooler temperatures or on rainy days, a waterproof jacket and pants. The Saturday we went was splendid, a rare cloudless day teetering on 70 degrees, so sunglasses were in order and later, red skin caressed our hands and necks.
My mom packed us all water shoes, which was a life-saving choice. We purchased Barerun quick-dry water shoes from Amazon, which you can find here. Our sneakers, in turn, stayed dry, while we paddled in lightweight comfort. I would absolutely wear them more if I could. (Summer 2018 may seen the advent of my new style choice…)
We were part of a group of thirty two, so the surge of kayaks hitting the water must have been a marvel from Dublin, above. My mom and I matched my dad and Brady in little green-streaked yellow canoes. Our guides helped us slip safely into our kayaks and gave quick directions on steering ourselves out of the passageway we were in.
Like many long distance relationships, mom and I were doomed from the beginning as we attempted to latch onto the splintering wood boardwalk to our left, and instead collided with the tail end of three kayaks and regretfully let the current drag us away.
“Sorry in advance,” my mom said to our victims as we drifted past. “Oh, don’t worry,” a few replied, laughing, “we’re not going to be great at this!”
They were great at it, the narrator said.
As for us? Not five minutes after we were officially cruising, mom said from behind me, “I should have gone with Brady.” Yeah, you should have, I thought, aggravated and already wishing we could turn around. Every time our paddle returned from below the rippled surface of the water, we splashed Liffey in our hair and laps.
Kayaking is about unison. It requires two paddlers to become one, to disregard all but the direction of the oars and the timing of their strokes below the surface. My mom and I are extremely close, often riding on the same brain waves; still, we just couldn’t locate the key. We were moving with the current and somehow, the water was a barricading force, a nightmare of being chased by something and not moving at all. In our case, mom and I crashed with the cement sidings along the Liffey and once in a while with others. We ended up far enough behind that our pauses of frustration turned to admiring the bobbing boats ahead. Eventually, the guide bringing up the tail of the group asked if we wanted a lift to catch up with the others and, with slight defeat in our voices, said yes, please.
Brady and my dad, among the other bobbing boats, were tranquility personified. Dad did a majority of the paddling, while Brady occasionally lifted his paddled from his lap and, with an old-pro’s hand, stroked the water. They steered straight. They didn’t wish they were with mom or me.
The problem? We observed too much.
And not only observed too much, but questioned our own skills too much. We watched what everyone else was doing and followed it up with, “Why can’t we do this?” Without actually implementing the tricks we were noticing, we continued on disjointedly. It was like neither of us wanted to not be able to do it. We wanted to be able to latch on naturally, without help from anyone, and sort of without each other.
That’s just not how things work.
As we hung onto the red lifeboat, our guide gave us the simple solution. “Paddle on either side until you start to turn. Then paddle on the opposite side to straighten out.”
After being deposited at the edge of the group and thanking the guide, it started to work. Mom and I still faced scrutiny of one another and our inability to get the full hang of it, but we plugged on. It’s really not as easy an activity as I’d imagined it would be, current in our favor or no. Before the group was ready to turn around, mom and I were still a bit of a ways away, but we weren’t alone.
On a kayak, my love for Dublin bloomed in exquisite freshness.
As my initial irritations melted away, all I could see and feel was Dublin. The cityscape etched into my veins found me in the center of it all. Floating past landmarks of the city’s and my own making, I was witnessing a place so familiar to me with new eyes. With my family, remembering how insignificant our kayaking talents were in the grand scheme, I was smitten by Dublin almost as if for the first time.
We turned around just before reaching the Guinness factory. There, mom and I sighed and began our attempt at turning the boat around. Our anticipation of it was worse than the act itself. As if saying, “Abracadabra!,” mom and I were facing the opposite direction. I remember thinking, “That went well…” and wishing the jinxing thought away.
Smooth sailing immediately was our middle name.
I’m still perplexed by the fact that water rushed against us and we so deftly paddled against it. It didn’t comply with the laws of nature, which mom and I laughed about the entire way. Maybe fighting the current is smoother than it sounds. Sometimes I believe my mom is wired to swim upstream, doing so with immense grace, and maybe we just understood its riffs. However it happened, we didn’t put up any sort of battle as we paddled. The Liffey almost did the work for us.
Sun on our backs, water soaking our clothes, chuckles chasing their way out of our throats, we kayaked on.
To kayak is to be in unison, in stroke and joy. We found our rhythm, and as we jetted ourselves swiftly across the river, discovered new swells of love for where we were.
Yeah, we were one of the last people to dock. This time, we hadn’t even noticed.
I highly, highly recommend a tour with City Kayaking. To purchase your tickets, visit their site here. Definitely get your water shoes ready.