I've always wanted to kayak at sunset, but the tide is usually rough, the air too chilly, so when the hot Santa Ana winds brought the temperatures up and the tide just right, I dragged big yellow down to the sea for a sunset paddle.
It was pleasant. The sun fanned out like peacock feathers and my hat shaded my eyes just enough to smile as I stroked into the sunset. I traversed back and forth alternating between bright orange and blues that deepened by the minute. I was alone, but it was a wish-I-could-share moment. Ironically, it was soon to be.
With the sun tucked away to visit another part of the earth, I wanted to paddle as many waves as I could before dark. Not wanting to intrude on surfers' domain, I stayed on the edge of the best breaking waves.
Now....it's always intimidating to be a middle aged woman sitting in a kayak, to paddle near the surfers. Surfers are sooooo cool and daring and energetic. They epitomize "carpe diem," rushing from school or work to shred the last waves. They watch the weather and cheer when a storm erupts or an earthquake rattles the ocean floor and sends rollers to the shore.
I positioned myself to paddle in with the next wave with plenty of distance between me and the guys. With confidence, I paddled away, but a second later, I toppled.
After a short toss-about, I surfaced to see a surfer pulling my kayak towards me. What happened? My hat, water bottle and paddle bobbed in the surf, and then I saw it. One side of the paddle was missing! That's why I'd capsized so easily.
The wish-I-could share-it moment was granted. The surfer was a kind young man who treated me like his mom. I had to shoo him away so he could catch more waves before it was too late.
I literally now know how precarious it is to be up the creek without a paddle, or in this case, catching a wave without a paddle. It reminds me of how tenuous a situation can be when I'm ill-prepared.
In hindsight, it's easy to see that losing the paddle head is what caused the kayak to flip. But I need to examine the situation more deeply in order to prevent it from happening again. Salt water is corrosive, and even though I rinse the paddle, I still lost the grip. What do I need to do different? I need to check the paddle, the state of the kayak, like a pilot does before take-off.
Reflecting on small mishaps and mistakes help us prepare for the next time. I recently attended a class where the teacher said, "If you're too busy to reflect, you're too busy to improve."