Kayaking the Great Lake: A Less than Superior Experience

This past Summer I was fortunate enough to go on a family vacation with my mom, two brothers, grandmother, and my wife deep into the north woods of Minnesota. The trip included many things that I’d never experienced before, which is the sign of a great vacation and while most everything about the trip was extremely positive and full of fun and laughter there was a brief cloud of darkness that hung over about two hours of the week and a half we were gone. One might think as my mom did that kayaking on one of the great lakes is a once in a lifetime type of experience and something that is not only necessary but imperative to living a full and complete life but before you go down that long and winding road let me share with you the story of me and my wife kayaking in Lake Superior. Now, let me be clear up front that I don’t blame my mom and I think it’s completely reasonable that she assumed we would have a great time and in fairness we were all looking forward to it in the days preceding the trip.

One thing I’m thankful for concerning the kayak trip is that we left all of our phones and cameras in the car because if there anyone you don’t want to see in a skin tight wet suit it is me and the fact that there existed some photographic evidence of it would surely haunt me for my remaining days on earth. So my wife and I got in our two person kayak, she in the front and me in the back (I thought a rhyme here might be a nice way to start the story). Being in the rear seat it was my responsibility to control the turning and direction of the vessel via the pedals in the back and I’ve gotta tell you I was pretty terrible at it. If there were some record over the years of people in charge of stepping on pedals to control the movements of a kayak I’m quite positive that I would worst on the list but shockingly I don’t completely lay the blame on myself. I’m a pretty short person and in order to reach the pedals I had to scoot down in the seat and lean back to extend my legs far enough to touch them. In retrospect I realize I could have asked the “instructor” to adjust the pedals to a more comfortable position but I didn’t realize that was possible at the time with me being new and unaware of kayak technology.

If you ever want to assess how in-sync you are with your spouse or partner I suggest getting into a kayak and trying to navigate the choppy waters of Lake Superior because it was incredibly eye opening to me that we could not get in sync with our rowing patterns. I place the majority of that blame on the fact that I was basically laying down in order to stretch and reach the pedals which wasn’t really doing us good any way because by the time I pressed on one we had turned to far in that direction so I had to readjust to reach the other one and that is how we went zigging and zagging our way up the Minnesota shore line. I literally was lying so far back when I was trying to reach the pedals that I could not see in front of me and would have to raise back up to see how far we’d behind we’d fallen. It certainly didn’t help our confidence level that the family who was joining us on our kayaking excursion were basically olympians who were proud to announce this wasn’t their first time on Lake Superior. They hopped in their boats without a hitch and were on their way out to sea before being yelled at by the “instructor” for not following like the first rule he’d mentioned about staying together and not leaving the group behind. Idiots. They rowed with such precision it didn’t even look like they were having fun, but rather training intensely for a competition but really what would I know about the fun way to kayak? I spent the majority of the time looking up at the sky turning the boat back inland then back out towards the sea depending on what the “instructor” was yelling about at the time. Fed up with having to wait on us and noticing our frustration the “instructor” offered us an out. He told us that we were almost to the halfway point where we would get out and walk around the beach for a little while before going back and if we wanted he would call the person who had taken us down to the water to come and pick us up and take us back to the car. Those very well may have been the most glorious words I had ever heard in my life. With an end in the sight the remainder of the trip didn’t seem as long and by the time we reached the halfway point where we would be picked up I was so happy that I didn’t even care about embarrassing myself by upon struggling to get out of the kayak just tipping myself over and falling into the shallow rocky water. I’ve never been stranded on an island for days without hope and then one day miraculously being found but I imagine it’s similar to what I felt when I saw the van pulling up to take us away from that literally painful experience. When I’m old and experiencing severe back pain I have a feeling I’ll be able to trace it back to a certain kayaking trip on Lake Superior.


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