It was the best Christmas present ever. Santa nailed it. The very definition of an awesome gift: it was a total surprise, it didn’t make any sense at all, and it was something she always wanted and didn’t know it yet. I mean, who in Alberta gets a kayak for Christmas?
The Better Half grew up around water.
Not that she’s an amphibian or anything, I mean that she was born and raised in Sylvan Lake. Not actually “in” the lake but — you know what I mean. As such she has water in her bones. Not actual water instead of marrow but — OK, thing is, she really likes being in, around, and upon lakes. And she’s not even an Aquarius.
So how did Santa get a full sized kayak under the tree? He took a big chance and ordered a box of kayak online. It came with a pump and a paddle in put-together pieces. That’s right, an inflatable kayak! The B.H. was more than surprised, if you get my drift.
But for once, one of my dumb ideas actually worked. (It was yours truly who put the request in for Santa.) We had to wait, like, six months to see if the thing would immediately sink like a flat tire, or perhaps shoot off across the lake by itself like a leaky balloon, but about five minutes after the lake ice turned back to freezing liquid there was no stopping the Lake Girl.
I helped (a bit) of course. As I was breathlessly shuk-shuk-shuking away on the air pump, I figured, what’s a little chest pain and dizziness when it comes to the best present ever? You have to inflate the bottom part of the boat, then the top half, then you pump away at the seat and then a footrest thingy and then you assemble the double-ended paddle, and then you find some shade and a couple of Tylenols and have a nap.
Actually, I make it sound like much more work that it actually is. Especially when the Better Half does it on her own. And of course the best thing about an inflatable boat is you don’t need a big black half ton truck or a roof rack to haul it around, and one person can pick it up and carry it to the water. I know because I watched her do it. Looked pretty easy to me, anyway.
And then there was the part whether you wonder if it’s just bravery or just plain craziness. The part where you (she) actually gets the air-kayak onto the water and finally takes a leap, or in this cast a “sit” of faith.
I was ready for disaster of course. Sitting on a picnic table on the shore in the obligatory shade, watching carefully with my thumb on the 911 of my phone. But, to my surprise and her relief, it worked beautifully.
There she was, the Better Half, blissfully gliding around like a mermaid with a new car.
And immediately, I knew exactly where this was heading. Destiny was not going to allow me to sit on the shady shore for long, and neither was the Better Half.
Me in an inflatable kayak is a bit like an orangutan in a canoe. After much flailing, splishing, splashing, flopping and flipping I was finally more or less sitting, half soaked, in a little boat on a lake. And that’s when I discovered there’s nothing quite like spending quality time in soggy shorts.
Next week: going kayak crazy, and — what the heck is a “skeg”?
Harley Hay is a Red Deer writer and filmmaker.