Sunday, March 22, 2009


Living beside the river has had me itching to be out on the water for a while now. We see a couple of kayakers paddle by every week and we discuss how easily we could carry a boat from our place to the water and just paddle. Unfortunately, boats (other than expensive yatchs or rowing dingies) are hard to come by, so we usually keep walking and our conversations go on to other things.

Finally, last week, I took things into my own hands and went online (because that's where we do everything these days). I found a paddling club and sent them a note. I was informed that they met on Sundays at 2:30pm and new people were welcome. Great! Stephen had rowing at 4pm so he couldn't join me, but at 2pm on Sunday afternoon, I climbed onto my bike and peddled my way out to the boat compound just 5km away. And . . . . no one was there. In fact, with the spitting rain, grey clouds and increasing wind, it looked pretty desolate. A steel chainlinked fence surrounding a space of concrete littered with the tangled parts of boats in the middle of suburbia. I walked the length of the fence, past the empty looking building along one side, looking for some sign of use. As I was about to leave, a red truck pulled up and went in, so I followed it.

Tane, is a social worker who works with maori youth at risk, and part of his program is taking these youth out paddling; developing skills, confidence, and partnership. And I was more than welcome to join them. So, as the youth started to show up, I was introduced and put to work. By the time 3pm rolled around, there were 11 people (enough for the two 6 seater outriggers they had lashed together) and one baby. After a brief maori prayer and group introduction, we lifted the boat up onto some wheels, pushed it down to the river, clambered in and pushed off.

These kids know how to paddle. Tane and his helper sat at the back, steering and calling out the 'huts' and strokes. Everything was in maori, so I just followed for the first bit until I could associate words with actions, then I just tried my hardest to keep up. The kids are training for a social regatta in two weeks time, on Easter Saturday. They have three teams registered and this was their second last paddle before then. We worked on strength, commitment, working together and confidence (although, I think the baby slept the whole way). But mostly it was fun.

By the time we got back to the ramp, my arms were empty and my breath was coming quickly. We clambered out onto the shore and pulled the boat up. After washing the boat of weeds and salt water, we all said thanks and Tane shared next weeks plans.

After everyone had left, Tane invited me to come again and maybe sometime give a slideshow on growing up in Canada. We'll see what I can come up with, maybe I'll be able to learn something about growing up in New Zealand in return.

Kia Ora,

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