302 days left until Canoecopia!     March 13 - 15
Never Too Late
-Alex LaChapelle

It took a pandemic. After 36 years, I learned to paddle!

I wasn't afraid. Growing up, I have always loved water. When I was young, I swam, I skied, my family boated, and at camp, like so many kids, I learned to canoe in those big clunky aluminum boats. I was a fish. Yet there was one watersport which stood above the rest: Kayaking! Sure, I got in a kayak and looked at otters and seals for an hour, but I wanted to know how to be a kayaker. I got older, I went on adventures, I learned new things, but never to kayak.

Yet, since I can remember, I would watch the Olympics, every four years, excited for any chance to see kayaking. I didn't really know what skills were involved, I didn't really even understand how you won, but I knew they went backwards and forwards, they flipped upside down and popped up on the other side. Every Olympics, every time I passed a kayak strapped to a vehicle on the highway, and every time someone else said they were kayaking, the child inside me would dream.

There were many times when my friends and I would make plans and promises to go kayaking, but like so many plans, it never happened. The longer I waited to try, the more I wondered maybe I'm too big, maybe I'm too old, maybe I missed my chance. Maybe I should just wait and do it when I'm older or maybe I should be thinking about something else entirely.

Then the pandemic hit, and like so many people I had a lot of free time with nowhere to go and to really do. I started to dream. Maybe it was the kayak gods, maybe it was ad bots listening in on my thoughts, but one day Rutabaga came across my computer. I had never heard of them, but I saw they specialized in outdoor wilderness survival and watersports, and they definitely had kayaks.

This was my chance! But I was a little embarrassed, and nervous... would I be in a kids' class, would I be the biggest, heaviest, oldest, and slowest in the class? I was even worried I might not even fit in a kayak. I stayed the course and I wrote an email. I explained all my fears and waited for a response. It felt like no time at all and I was being reassured I had nothing to fear. In fact, Rutabaga had suspended group lessons, and was only doing socially distanced one-to-one privates. Perfect! Although, not perfect because I did not have any more excuses. I was going to have to go through with this. With Rutabaga, it was not about if I could kayak, it was when. We scheduled some lessons, and after a few vocab words and thoughts on safety, I was on the water. I was paddling, I was turning, and in a few days, I was edging and dreaming of trips I never thought possible just a few days prior. I was so excited; I even came back a couple weeks later to take a class about solo canoeing.

This pandemic has not been easy, to say the least. There were many unexpected situations we all found ourselves in, but one which has brought me a lot of joy has been learning to kayak and solo canoe with Rutabaga. It's winter now, but I'm already dreaming of what could come in the Spring. More than anything, I am so glad I stopped waiting on something I wanted to do.

There will always be reasons not to do something, but the freedom I found in that boat with a little bit of training, has opened my eyes to many possibilities in the future. I am so excited for what's next! I'm glad I reached out to Rutabaga. What a joy to be surrounded by people who had no worries about whether I could kayak, but rather they were excited to show me why I should kayak! It's never too late to learn something new, but every day you don't is another day of missing out on what could be a fantastic adventure.
Canoecopia is presented by Rutabaga Paddlesports