In recent years, kayaking has become a true craze, ranking right up there with TikTok dances, government stimulus checks and those glorified Lunchables on plywood I can’t pronounce called charcuterie boards. And speaking of unusual pronunciations, before my teenage daughters got involved with the pastime, I mainly associated the word “kayak” with a noise our cat makes right before she barfs on the throw rug.
I honestly don’t understand the point of kayaking, other than to get some rigorous exercise in a contraption guaranteed to give you soggy shorts. To me, paddling a boat is something you do in an emergency situation when the motor quits running. And if the lack of a propeller isn’t a warning sign, the life jacket and swimwear requirements should be.
Just a few weeks ago, we spent a Saturday with family at Lake Cherokee in East Texas, and my two eldest daughters effortlessly kayaked on their own across the lake, probably for the sake of some sweet action selfies — and to avoid answering embarrassing questions from relatives about their boyfriends’ hair styles.
Not to be outdone, and trying to prove that we’re still young, hip and semi-mobile, my wife and I decided to embark on a guided sunset kayaking excursion with our eldest and most expensive daughter the following week while vacationing in Orange Beach, Alabama. Since my wife and I are both novice kayakers, the guide suggested that we use a tandem kayak he called “the divorce maker.”
Although we were amused by the joke, I was immediately concerned about the narrow dimensions of the kayak. Since I tend to eat shameful quantities of seafood and key lime pie when I’m on a beach vacation, I thought I might require a more full-figured watercraft. Nevertheless, I took my seat in the rear with my wife in the front so that she could more efficiently sling sea water off her paddles and directly into my nostrils.
Because I was immediately distracted by the beauty of nature, including a great blue heron flying directly overhead that was possibly looking for the men’s room, I missed some of the instructions from the guide about how to steer the kayak properly. As a result, my wife and I became instant experts at paddling our kayak without actually moving it.
After a well-deserved “wife-splaining,” I eventually got my bearings, and we frantically paddled out into Perdido Pass to catch up with our daughter, who was shaking her head and pretending that we were unknown life forms.
The rest of the excursion was exhilarating as our guide identified the diverse wildlife and dramatic landscapes around us. At one point, he drew our attention to a school of small pompano jumping out of the water right in front of our daughter’s kayak, although from our vantage point at the far rear of the group, he could have told us they were a herd of amphibious armadillos, and we would’ve been none the wiser.
I was so taken by the splendor of God’s creation that I almost didn’t notice the crippling pain radiating from every muscle below my eyebrows as I paddled. Luckily, my wife is in great shape, or I couldn’t have taken my frequent fake-paddle breaks with such discreet confidence.
As we glided toward the shore at the end of the day, our silhouettes tinted auburn by the sun reclining along the horizon, I reflected on our adventure and felt a deep contentment from the memories we made as a family. I was also hopeful that I would someday regain the ability to lift my arms high enough to scratch.
Although I’m glad I had the kayaking experience, I’ll probably leave it to the youngsters for now. But who knows? Maybe someday I’ll get one of those fancy kayaks with a motor — and a storage area for key lime pie.