Friday, October 14, 2016

SOLO & ACCOMPANIMENT


“When you’re traveling with someone else, you share each discovery, but when you are alone, you have to carry each experience with you like a secret, something you have to write on your heart, because there’s no other way to preserve it.” — Shauna Niequist

It's a romantic notion. Man versus nature. A single kayaker confronting the odds alone against the unforgiving sea or fierceness river.  As Rudyard Kipling wrote, "He travels the fastest who travels alone." Solo kayaking trip has all the elements of a classic tale with mythical bravery, hardship and solitude.

"You do miss people a bit but I‘m reasonably comfortable with my own company." Jason Beachcroft told Australian Geographic Outdoor  "The longest time without seeing even a fisherman was six days. When I did the solo traverse of the Alps I went 12 days without seeing anyone."
Adventurer Beachcroft last month become the first adventurer to kayak around Australia, including the Tasmania into his route. He took only limited electronic gear and depended on a compass, maps as well as GPS for back up. He accomplished two crossings of Bass Straight and paddled into Sydney Harbour's Rose Bay,  after 17-months and 18, 000 kilometers around the continent.
"You need to interpret with what you’re actually seeing and balance your fatigue level and skill." said Beachcroft,  "On a certain day I might plan to paddle from one bay to another and then look at the conditions and shelter. But I may change my plans, even from paddling to not paddling."

You don't have to circumnavigate Australia for solo paddling to make you feel heroic or have a life affirming moment. Sea kayaker and blogger Kate Hives wrote,  "My intention to paddle alone did not stem from a desire to be bold or to do something no one had ever done. I wanted to see what kind of decisions I might make, how I would cope with the lonely days on my own. I wanted to crawl out of my comfort zone and use it as a time for reflection."
Kate Hives_North Wales Solo Trip_2016 (1 of 1)-2.jpg
Kate Hives
The Vancouver Island based Hives wrote about her experiences in her blog At home on the water while paddling alone off the coast of North Wales last winter. She shared that as she ran into highly changeable weather conditions, she was met by fear and uncertainty and had to developed courage from within to overcome those fears."Normally the sea conditions would not have caused me to worry," wrote Hives, "But as the front closed in, the seas got bigger and bigger, the wind stronger and more powerful. It became a mind game of convincing myself that it wouldn’t get any worse.  I put my fear in a box, thanked it for keeping me safe, and tucked it away in my mind to make room for focus. All my senses were heightened..."

 An African proverb concluded,  "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together."  So while many love the solitude of the solo paddle, most people like to make it a social activity by bringing friends and family along with them to share their experience. Paddlers say, that by kayaking together they can build stronger relationships between loved ones and enhanced their friendships with other boaters.


"I think there's safety in numbers when you paddle as a group." said Sacramento Paddle Pushers, founder Lynn Halsted,  "You can bounce ideas off each other, try out a new kayak or paddle, or event talk about carpooling to the next trip.  I've learned from watching others and I'm sure this has been true of other paddlers who learn from me."

Halsted started SPP, an online paddling meet up group six years ago in October 2010 with no ideas of what to expect. It quickly grew with the popularity of kayaking. The group now has close to 500 members presently with a solid core of 60 paddlers actively taking part.  Having fun on the water together is always a priority for the group, as it  plans and undertakes extensive paddling trips through out Northern California and elsewhere.
"I honestly have never paddled solo." said Halsted,  "At least I've not launched and started out solo intentionally.  There have been occasions where I'm in the lead or a sweep who is far enough away from the rest of the group, to consider myself solo."

Lynn Halsted

She admits there are some drawbacks to paddling with groups while trying detox away from the daily rush while spending time in the serenity of nature.
"The talking!' said Halsted,  "I prefer to paddle in mostly silence so I can become close to nature and enjoy the wildlife. So, paddling ahead or hanging back is a great way to obtain silence, while still remaining with the group. This allows me to take pictures of both our paddlers and wildlife."

 "There is nothing like paddling out with good friends to enjoy the day together," Hives agreed,  "It can certainly feels easier to motivate yourself to get out and paddle when there are others to go with. But making the decision to go out on your own draws focus towards the center of your passion. It highlights your strengths and weaknesses in a very real and immediate way." Heading out solo offers a unique opportunity to practice the courage to know you can do it and the humility to know when not to go. It is an exercise in self-awareness and self- discipline."


For both of them, kayaking whether alone or in a group is about simply being out there and embracing that amazing adrenaline rush or celebrating those mindful moments on the water.
"Heading out solo, " said Hives, "Offers a unique opportunity to practice the courage to know you can do it and the humility to know when not to go. It is an exercise in self awareness and self discipline."
"The great advantage to being in front (of the group) by yourself," added Halsted, "Is you get the perfect reflections off the water in front of you.  There's nothing like being the first to cut through glass like water.