By Moulton Avery
(editor’s note: This week, east coast paddling legend Moulton Avery, aka Captain Cold Shock, for his expertise on cold water ailments and what to do about them, reflects on sea kayaking and the joys of aging. Enjoy!)
Ah, personal image, that great deceiver. A decade and a half seems like a hell of a long time when you’re looking forward, but looking back it’s another story. You reach a certain age, you blink your eyes, and suddenly weird hairs are growing out of your ears, your nose, and who knows where else. It’s pretty freaky.
A witches’ brew of family obligations, a weird back injury, and a bum hip knocked me out of the cockpit for roughly that long, and when the doc finally said “OK, dude, you got your new hip, now go forth and paddle”, I naively thought I’d just dust off the old boat and, with a little practice of course, kinda pick up where I left off. I was, in other words, cluelessly waiting for a huge “wake-up call”. It’s a dangerous place to hang out, because when the shocking call finally comes, many a startled older gent has been known to start swilling the grog well before noon.
My first inkling that something might be amiss came during physical therapy for the new hip, when my old boat began calling out to me in my dreams: “Moulton….Mooolton….I’m still here…..If you think you can squeeze your fat, blubbery buttocks into the cockpit….ha ha ha ha ha”. You know, that sort of thing.
Back in the day, with close to fifteen years of good sea kayaking and teaching experience under my belt, I considered myself a pretty good paddler. I was comfortable in the saddle when conditions got “a little pushy”, as we used to say. I’m also familiar with the old line “you never forget how to ride a bicycle”, and figured it surely applied to “riding” a sea kayak as well. As things turned out, I was right. It does. Sort of…
Unfortunately, what I somehow overlooked in my enthusiasm for getting back on the water, was the really fine print that said “Yeah, dumbass, you never forget how, but – check it out: Your paddling now sucks! You want a wake-up call? You want a reality-check? No problemo. C’mere, dude, have I ever got a sport for you!”
That’s one of the things I really love about sea kayaking: it’s simply not possible to BS yourself – or your mates – about your paddling competence. As soon as your boat hits the water, reality intrudes. Oh sure, Whiplash, you were All-Pro back on the beach, but now you’re on the water, and guess what? You either suck at making the boat dance, or you don’t. And I can guarantee you – nobody’s gonna be impressed when you demonstrate your uncanny mastery of the half-roll…
It didn’t take me all that long to figure it out, because as I quickly discovered, I didn’t just suck, I sucked big-time! Somehow, while I was snoring away at the helm, a most unfortunate transmogrificaiton had occurred: I had morphed from being a competent SEA KAYAKER into a brand new state of being. No longer could I consider myself a waterman, or even a waterboy, for that matter. I was now, without question, nothing less than a Sea Slug. It wasn’t a pretty sight, either, and unless I was planning on stopping in Grogtown on my way to Geezerville, something clearly had to be done about it.
Kayaker – Teach Thyself! “Well”, I thought, “that’s just the ticket. Sure I’m a little rusty, but, Crikey, I know how to teach sea kayaking, so hell, I’ll just coach myself. Dust off the old bag o’ tricks and polish it up. Shouldn’t take long. Shouldn’t take long at all.” I was like a blind mole rat, poking his little bewhiskered face out of the tunnel and into the sunlight. I felt the warmth and figured I was home free. Trouble was, I couldn’t see shit. That’s just the way it goes sometimes, and sure enough, that’s exactly how it went for me.
If this was a book, rather than a blog, the back cover would read something like this:
Watch in mute terror as he kicks his way to freedom after another blown roll. Laugh till your sides hurt as he capsizes a Barge-Style rental kayak in flat water a mere four feet from the dock and his glasses are lost. Listen to the whimpering as he blindly reaches out for more Tylenol at 3am. Shake your head in wonder as he loses yet another pair of glasses – this time while standing on the dock, no less – and fries his cell phone diving into the water in a botched attempt at retrieving them, before they, too, are lost in the murky depths. Thrill to the feel of having your jaw drop as he completes a successful roll, but loses a third pair of glasses, this time with a “floaty strap” attached. Where are they? Who the hell knows? If they’re floating nearby – which, by all rights, they should be – he can’t see well enough to find them. Might as well mount a white cane and an inflatable barking dog named Ruffkin to the bow so others can keep a safe distance from this aquatic menace.
And that was just for starters, mates. Folks at the boathouse took such pity on me that they offered me a part-time summer gig helping them lead what I came to think of as “my little ducklings” – a smallish group of 100 or so “sea” kayakers who had signed up for a leisurely evening flatwater paddle on the Potomac River in Washington, DC. You know, a “See the monuments sparkle in the moonlight” kind of outing. Since I was the only “guide” with any teaching experience, they had me run sweep, a location where, as you know, all the folks who really need some pointers just happen to wind up. It was a great experience. “Excuse me, sir, I believe your paddle is upside down.” Folks loved the help and I loved helping them.
But the poor little ducklings. God only knows what they really thought. I mean, picture it: here’s some “guide” supposedly looking out for their safety and welfare, and he seems nice enough with his paddling tips, and vaguely OK, mentally speaking, but what’s the deal with him wearing those sunglasses after dark? How the hell can he see where he’s going?
The “deal”, of course, was that thanks to the recent economic “downturn”, (Go, Wall Street!) our twelve-year-old family business had gone belly up. I was also in the middle of some domestic unpleasantness, and what with all the legal fees, I didn’t have quite enough “green energy”, as my brother likes to put it, to spring for yet a fourth pair of new glasses in eight weeks. So when the third pair skipped town on that blind date with Neptune, the only thing left was my dark prescription shades. It was either wear them, or break out the white cane and Ruffkin, the inflatable barking dog – a combo that doesn’t exactly work in the “guide biz”.
No complaints, though. I know I’m a lucky duck. I may be on the road to Geezerville, but thanks to that get-a-new-hip card, I’m standing on the brakes and taking my life back one paddle stroke at a time. It’s been a whole lot more than wonderful, and you know what? The very best part – the thing that really touches me deeply, is the incredible warm embrace that my fellow paddlers have given me, a prodigal member of the tribe. I was gone a long time, but now, thanks in no small measure to all of you, your friendship, and your moral support, I’m back. It feels really good to be home.
Feel free to comment to Moulton below. Perhaps you have experienced tribulations as you have gotten older which have impacted your kayaking, and maybe you are starting a new phase of sea kayaking. Please share your thoughts and tales. Captain Cold Shock himself will respond to your comments and queries.
Fat Paddler says
Moulton, an excellent and candid piece of writing, thanks for sharing! You and I have much in common methinks, since my return to kayaking came after shattering my pelvis. And boy did I suck (and I mean REALLY suck!). Of course I didn’t lose any glasses.. oh hang on yes I did, two pairs of sunglasses from memory. And a camera mount. With it’s camera. And somewhere along the way, the majority of my dignity. 😉
But seriously, congrats on getting back on the water, and may your skills and enjoyment (and hopefully a bit more green power!) return in good time. Cheers mate!! FP
Moulton Avery says
Thanks FP! You were one of the mates sitting on my shoulder when I wrote the last paragraph of this guest blog. We do seem to have a lot in common, and the beginnings of what promises to be a long and endearing friendship. That thought, and dreams of your beloved sausages (which I look forward to eating some day soon) make me smile & have helped keep the darkness at bay during this difficult time in my life. I look forward to reading your new book, mate.
Welcome back Moulton
Wayne Hanley says
Paddle on, Geezerville can wait! Besides sunglasses at night are cool, I vaguely remember a song to that effect, or is that showing my age.
Moulton Avery says
Thanks, Tess! Wayne, I vaguely remember some song to that effect, too. If I recall correctly, it was Blind Watermelon’s “Can’t See Nothin'”. “Shades too dark and I can’t see, Lordy Mercy, please help me”… or words to that effect. On their epic “Short Road To Geeztown” album.
Scuba Steve says
Moulton, excellent blog on your return to kayaking. How’s your training for storm paddling going? We can get more people to throw buckets of water at you . . . .
Moulton Avery says
Well, Steve, as my daughters would say: “It’s totally awesome!” On a personal level, however, I need all the buckets of water in the face that I can get, and an occasional Key Lime Pie is always a welcome addition to my training. Even so, I think it’s gonna take a while for me to get comfy in 1-2 foot “chop”, or “confused seas” as we like to call those conditions here on the East Coast…
I know you’ll be thrilled to hear that thanks to a generous grant from Cocky-Locky Sea Kayaks, Team Geezer™ is now offering – at very reasonable rates – high velocity sessions on the Williwawmobile™ and personalized Storm Training™ for intrepid sea kayakers seeking to “push the envelope” and “paddle outside the box”. Accordingly, we’re looking for both volunteers and paid staff to man our Bucket Brigade™.
Nancy Soares says
Moulton, I know you’re being funny, but I think one of the greatest exercises in self-sabotage is to compare our aging selves to our younger selves. Firstly, all we ever have is the present moment, and the present moment, if we’re really honest, typically isn’t all that bad. If it is, it shortly changes into something else. As we say in Oregon about the weather, “Don’t like it? Don’t worry. It’ll change in a minute!” Secondly, our memories of the past change. An extreme example would be my mom, who for years had a memory of consistently beating her younger sister at tennis, only to discover when she went back and read her diary that her sister had actually consistently beat her. Another thing, the parents of the kids at our dojo seem to think that kids are more flexible than adults. They’re wrong. Actually, the kids struggle with the same things the adult students do. Interestingly, thanks to a regular yoga practice, my 53 year old body blows away the kids in the flexibility department, and thanks to years of teaching aerobics and a lot of practice pacing myself I don’t get nearly as bushed at the end of our workouts as the other adults, mostly men in their 20’s to 40’s. Also, everyone talks about their aches and pains, but anyone who lives an active life is going to get injured, whether they’re 18 or 80. Some of the worst injuries I ever had happened in my 20’s and 30’s, like a pulled groin and a popped rib. These things took a long time to heal. As for kayaking and other sports, sure, as we age we probably can’t or shouldn’t take the risks we used to, but we’re also smarter (ideally) and can get the same amount of enjoyment, maybe more, out of whatever we do choose to do. As for me, I am finding that I am slowly getting better at everything I do, even as I age. If you look, you’ll find lots of people over 50 who are accomplishing amazing things in sports. The thing to do is be creative in your training protocol, focus on the present moment, and NEVER give up! Thanks for your post, this is actually one of my pet peeves. I hate it when people sell themselves short because they’re getting older!
Moulton Avery says
Nancy, I’m so sorry you got the impression that I was making a negative comparison between myself at 62 and, say 35, 45 or 55. This post is certainly about the passage of time, but I think it has far less to do with the physical process of aging than it does with getting back in the saddle after a very long absence from the sport. Also with my surprise at how much my skill had deteriorated while I was off the water. Paddling was initially very frustrating as a result, but I persevered, more than grateful to have been given a second chance. I spent at least four happy hours on the water every other day for six months last year, working on taking back what I had lost – to time away from the water, not to aging.
My primary intent in writing the post was to recount, in a humorous fashion, some of the events that occurred on the water as I renewed my love affair with sea kayaking, and also to thank the wonderful people who so warmly welcomed me back into the sport and who have been so encouraging and emotionally supportive during this very difficult period in my life.
Aging wasn’t part of that difficulty. Nor was sea kayaking. in fact, paddling was a big part of my physical and emotional salvation at a time when virtually everything else in my life was looking like a deep, black hole. Marital disaster, home broken apart, estranged from my daughters, business failure, my brother severely disabled by botched neck surgery; having no personal assets, no benefits and no job; having to move six times in the past year, having no place to call my home, trying to deal with an acrimonious divorce dragging on for years and years – the list goes on and on. It’s been a supremely stressful, anxiety-producing, and depressing time for me; arguably the most difficult set of circumstances that I’ve ever faced in my entire life. Without sea kayaking and the love and support of friends and siblings, I honestly have no idea how I would have made it.
Still, aging is real, and comparisons are the inevitable result of reflecting on what has past, what is now, and what lies ahead. There’s no denying that I’m not the same man today, physiologically, mentally or emotionally speaking, as I was back in the day. For example: I’m a lot wiser than I was as a younger man. I’m also more patient, thoughtful, empathetic, kind and considerate. I’m a better teacher and a better writer. I don’t just appreciate friendship, I treasure it. I have greater perspective on life – blessings all.
However, absent a miracle, I don’t think I’ll be paddling at the level I am today when I turn 85, nor do I expect to live to be 150. Injuries now take much longer to heal than when I was 50. It’s more difficult to build and retain muscle. Stuff deteriorates and breaks – my right hip, for example. The cataract in my right eye was just replaced with a new lens, and my left eye is up next. Plus, the weird hairs are real, and they are kinda freaky.
But as I said, “I’m not complaining; I know I’m a lucky duck”. I have a new hip, without which I would be barely able to walk, let alone sea kayak. The new lens in my right eye improved my vision from 20/450+ to 20/25, and I can now kayak without glasses and don’t need good old Ruffkin as a backup.
Best of all, I feel like I’ve come home after a very long time away, and my sea kayaking family has opened both their arms and their hearts and warmly welcomed me back. In light of my circumstances, that’s been so heartwarming, uplifting, and wonderful that I really can’t do it justice with words. No matter how old I get, it’s a homecoming that I will always treasure and hold close to my heart.
william j sherman says
Hi Old Pal;
I am sorry to hear that you have had some tough times but happy to know that you landed on your feet (or should I say Kayak) my sons have a few of them up a the lake (you remember that) and I paddle around a bit in the summer but strictly recreational.
I saw in an artical that Anna died of ovarian cancer in 2000. I didn’t know if you kept up with her at all? Saw in the Guilford Magazine that Larry Mackie died a couple of months ago. I guess we are doing better than some?
Great to be in touch again and smooth sailing
Moulton Avery says
Bill, you rogue! Great to hear from you! What’s your email address. Write me anytime: moultonavery
william j sherman says
great to hear from you
Eric Soares says
Hey Moulton, I commend you for your eloquent response to Nancy’s comment. I was riveted to every word. It amazes me that folks who communicate on a blog post can be civil and meaningful in today’s slash-and-burn and hit-and-run styles of public communication. I’m grateful that so far this blogsite and stimulating posts such as yours have fostered interesting and thoughtful responses and actual conversation, not just repartee (nothing wrong with that either!).
You and Nancy brought up important issues about recovery. Both in your post and in your response to Nancy, you have shown a willingness to discuss your weaknesses and failures, and do so with humor and compassion. I admire that in a person. That was a central reason I wanted you to write your post. (I also enjoy your writing style, and that was the other main reason.) It’s good to articulate what you think and feel; that is part of the recovery process, and you are doing that in your post.
Nancy brings up a point which I also have had to face, and that is how to remake yourself after taking some major hits, which happens to all of us as we meander down the stream of life. I’ve had to recover after some major health issues, just as you and others have done, and it’s hard. I think Nancy is pointing out that when down we must buck up, and that is the path you (and I) are on.
Paraphrasing John Lennon and Paul McCartney (as sung by Ringo Starr), “We get by with a little help from our friends.” I agree with that sentiment 100%. My friends have helped me get back in the saddle, and that is what your friends are doing for you. That is a good thing.
Moulton Avery says
Thanks, Eric. Thoughtful cordiality is one of the things I like about your blog. Several things that Nancy said resonated with me. We should never sell ourselves short. We can blow the socks off of people decades our junior who have allowed themselves to become unfit (or unlimber). Pacing is important if you want a strong finish. Never give up.
One thing that I find striking about our generation is that we just “keep on truckin’, truckin’ on down the line. When I found out that Ranger Powers was a number of years my senior, I found it really inspiring.
I had a very interesting conversation with Wayne Horodowich last week, a portion of which was devoted to a discussion about teaching and the importance of the image and example we set for our students. We were on the exact same page in feeling that there is much to be said in favor of humility, a willingness to admit vulnerability and imperfection, to readily acknowledge our errors, and to take care not to set ourselves up on pedestals. If, for example, we perpetuate the myth of a “bombproof roll”, we’re really doing both ourselves and our students a disservice. No that one shouldn’t continuously strive for refinement and improvement, it’s just that we would do well to acknowledge the fact that in the real world, “perfection” is an unattainable state.
I’ve personally found aging to be a very liberating experience. In our society, men are discouraged from admitting vulnerability, weakness, uncertainty, imperfection etc. We’re encouraged to be tough, and to play our emotional cards very close to our vests. It was a lesson I learned well, and it served me poorly as I made my way through life. These days, I could care less if people don’t like my emotional openness, and I find that the older men with whom I interact feel much the same way. Heaven forbid, but dude, we’re sharing – something women have known to be a very good thing right from the start. Adios, macho-man and rugged individualist; hello sensitivity. Very good and liberating stuff.
Fat Paddler has a new book coming out – entitled (of course) “The Fat Paddler”. As I understand it, it’s a personal, heartwarming, and inspirational story of loss and redemption; one in which he bares his soul and discusses severe injury and recovery, and delves into the dark abyss of depression that so often accompanies such events. It takes courage to wear your heart on your sleeve, but there is no better place for it to be. I can’t wait to read it.
Fat Paddler says
You know Moutlon, it’s incredibly humbling for me to hear of other people stories and realise that others have shared similar torturous journeys. I’ve been lucky enough to be able to publish mine since my story is deemed “interesting enough” by a publisher (lets face it, I’m superb at marketing myself as some kind of plump paddling superhero!), but in no way is it worse than yours, Eric’s own health problems or the problems faced by many others. I have been very touched by this overall discussion and I only hope my book is a fraction as eloquent and as generous as your own writing.
That being said, if you want to read more on the book, you can do so by going to the following link or joining the Facebook page called “The Fat Paddler” for more discussion. http://fatpaddler.com/books/
Eric Soares says
FP, I went to your website and checked out the details on your book. I want one. I live in the States, and we don’t have a “Boffins Bookstore” here. How do I purchase one?
Any chance I can get an autographed copy? Just askin’.
Moulton Avery says
Me too, FP. Autographed. Something like, oh, “To a Sea Slug – get the lead out, bucko…”
Seriously, FP, your fans want the autographed editions – even if we have to send them to you by tramp steamer.
Wayne Hanley says
FP I’ll place an order for an autographed copy as well, heck you should be able autograph them all. :o)>
Fat Paddler says
I’m working with the publisher to get autographed copies for sale through the retailer that handles their own orders. It’ll be on my website come 1st August. 🙂
andy taylor says
Thanks for your candid post on life, aging, your love of paddling, and the value of friends. I get the sense that many (most?) of the posters here are in the “aging athlete” club (certainly myself), and I think it’s helpful for us all to hear your story, and your positive response to life’s problems. I’m glad you’re back on the water.
There is nothing more therapeutic than the ocean! Years ago, Steve Sinclair would say that he was going to visit his guru…people would ask, “your guru? Really?”, and he would reply, “yeah, you know, Babba Bob-Around-Out-There. I go out, bob around for awhile, and I feel much better about life.”
For myself, I’ve had to choose between paddling and work: My wrists, elbows and shoulders are pretty much a mess due to years of great demand on them. I’m an arborist; I climb trees for a living, which already causes enough pain. I can’t add paddling to the mix any more. I tried to make a living through kayaking, but while it was a lot of fun, I couldn’t support the whole family with it.
I still get out there, though, in a 20′ panga with a 50hp outboard! Fishing, diving, bobbing around…it’s still the same beautiful ocean. And I vicariously enjoy seeing our kids getting into ocean sports, hearing others’ tales of kayaking, and hopefully offering a tip here and there that someone else could use.
Moulton Avery says
Andy, what can I say. You and I have definitely got to meet when I’m visiting the West Coast. I’m moved by what you wrote here, and I really appreciate the conversation we had on the cold water safety piece that Eric posted in February. I was very interested in everything you had to say about Steve Sinclair’s approach and also really appreciated your interesting and thoughtful questions about some of the finer nuances of the cold water connection. I had a great time answering about “The Craws” that you and your dad experienced. You were another one of the mates sitting on my shoulder when I penned the last paragraph of “Confessions”.
An arborist! No place for slackers or the faint of heart, and the view is often grand, but the energy expenditure is significant, and I can understand why you had to make a choice. I’m sure it was a very hard one. It’s truly unfortunate that the skills we develop and the knowledge we love to pass along as instructors is undervalued and that it’s so tough to make it work financially. You’re very modest about your knowledge, and that also really resonates with me. If what I’ve seen of your writing is any indication, you have a lot more of value to share than “offering a tip here and there”. One of the things that I’ve really loved about participating in Eric’s blog is the wealth of knowledge and experience on display – and modestly displayed, at that.
Whether by 50hp panga or sea kayak, I agree, the main point is to get out into the ocean, stack the demons on the deck and show them no mercy. Whoosh! Oops, washed the little buggers off again; my bad! Keeps me sane and smiling in the face of adversity, and that’s more than enough blessing for me.
Rainer Lang says
Moulton, I appreciate reading your post. The subsequent replies and discussion have been quite enlightening.
Here’s a little pearl of wisdom that I came across this weekend:
“When you’re going through Hell, keep going!” Winston Churchill
Moulton Avery says
That’s a really great quote, Rainer. Thanks for your kind thoughts. Makes sense to me: If you find yourself in Hell, you won’t get out by sitting down and bemoaning your fate, that’s for sure. No easy walk to freedom, but worth every single step taken along the way.
Jim Kakuk says
There are bench marks in most peoples lives and usually they are associated with age or incidents. I have been lucky to not have had any long term health problems or serious accidents, a lot of “close calls” and a few injuries, usually while having fun, but a few weeks ago I turned 60 and suddenly I feel like my age is a factor in limiting my risk taking. Thinking that I may have passed my “prime” and am beyond the range of what my body use to be able to do I have started to use the term “senior” as an excuse for being an observer instead of a participant.
Following this discussion while traveling overseas, I am inspired by how Moulton has overcome some very serious problems and is still pursuing physical challenges in his life. Yes I say, geezers rock on!
Moulton Avery says
Thanks Jim. What you said means a lot to me. I’ve also been lucky in the great outdoors. In fact, every single time I was stupid, I was lucky. Some very close calls, but here I am, despite my mistakes. A Lucky Duck. I did learn from them along the way, though, and that’s what saved my bacon in the long run. Remind me to tell you about my first rappel sometime. I was about 300 feet above the deck and my harness almost came off… Something about the difference between a square knot backed with a full hitch and a granny knot backed with a half hitch… Neither one great, but one a lot better than the other.
Even though I sometimes frighten myself while passing a mirror, and have to use a weed-whacker on my ears every other week, I still gotta say: Jim, we’re not geezers yet! If anything we’re pre-geezers, and you can’t get into Geezerville on that credential. Oh, they let you get right up to the gates, but then they blow you off with some smarmy comment like “sorry, dude, you’re too early, come back some other time”…
Also, if memory serves, (which it often doesn’t these days) Michael Powers has a something like decade on you, and 8 years on me. So I think it may be kinda hard for you to play the “senior card” with your Tsunami mates. Eric arrested Michael on lesser charges and he looked very authoritative and determined in that photo…
What’s more, if he doesn’t arrest you – trust me on this – Nancy will!
Jim Kakuk says
Moulton, Yes that is right. Michael does have a “full” decade on me, and he is still going strong–even with his new knees! And I DO trust you on that last statement.
Tony Moore says
Hey Jim, yes, I remember, you’re a few months younger than me, I turned 60 in January. Aside from set-backs like Moulton’s hip replacement and Eric’s cardiac issues, I am a firm believer in never slowing down. So many times, I see people scale back, not because they have a problem or issue, but simply because they think they are too old. The mind is truly the first thing to go, then it becomes a self-fufilling prophecy…you think you are too old, and sure enough, you become too old. Yes, we do have to take care and scale back (at least temporarily) when a problem arises, but we have to do this even when young…(try continuing any physical endeavor with a broken arm or leg when you’re 20, as if nothing has happened!). But we must strive to bounce back, as Moulton and Eric have so admirably done. I currently have no issues holding me back, but if and when I do, I want to tackle the problem like they have.
An animal I really respect is the turtle. The most formidable turtle in the pond is the largest and oldest one…no one messes with a really big snapper!
I think as we age, certain aspects of our physical abilities can actually improve. Strength is one…I’ve been weight training since I was 13, and am stronger than I have ever been. Another is endurance. The young kids (less than 40 yrs) are good for a burst of power, but seem to need more rests than the older paddlers I know who can paddle on for hours. Barring any set-backs, I expect to be paddling longer, harder, and more skillfully next year than this year. Remember, we have 30 years more experience than a 30-year old, and this experience definitely counts for a lot…if only we believe it!
Moulton Avery says
Thanks for commenting, Tony! Folks like you and Nancy keep me focused on the fact that age is just a number, and that the real arbiter of age is mental attitude. I’m working a new job as a canoe / kayak instructor, high ropes course guide and general swabbie at National Harbor outside DC, and my co-workers are mostly in their teens. I’ve got 20 years on the older mates in the crew. The teens can run circles around me in some situations (leaping over fences that I climb over, for example), and I’m sure they don’t whimper as much at night after a 10 hour shift, but this old goat (or turtle), like the Energizer Bunny, just keeps hopping along, and when it comes to sheer mental tenacity and endurance, I more than hold my own.
I really like what you said about the turtle and also about keeping up the training. Also, the edge we so often seem to have in terms of endurance. And, yeah, that 30+ years of experience is worth lot. But as you and Nancy so wisely note: all of this is ours for the taking – only if we believe it!
Hey neighbor, I enjoyed the blog and all the replies but our last conversation on the dock at National harbor was the BEST. I was in a kayak and you were on the dock taking notes or at least that is what it looked like. I didn’t have much time to share with you since my “ducklings” were jumping in the water to do a “Thursday Night Social Swim” for the next hour or so. The idea that you shared, “…we need to be swimmer first and paddler second is spot on.” I believe you said that was Eric’s idea; well Eric it is mine too! This past weekend I did the first parts of my recertification as a Waterfront Lifeguard and hope to have it done by next weekend (I’ll be one of the 50 or so oldest working guards in the country) and back out on the water with my kayak guarding my “ducklings” and Open Water Racers. Hope to see you on the Waters soon Moulton. If you have the time bring your boat or better still your swim trunks and do a few K’s with my ducklings!
Eric Soares says
Kurt, I share your enthusiasm for “swimmer first, kayaker second.” Congrats for being one of the oldest lifeguards in the country. Lifeguards are very important people in my book.
Moulton Avery says
Hi Kurt, thanks for commenting! I recently mentioned to Eric that one of my paddling buddies was very knowledgeable about open water swimming and that I was going to ask for some advice and get the lead out when it came to swimming. You were the guy I was going to ask, so it was a really great surprise to see you on the waterfront with “your” ducklings. I was really inspired by all the swimmers – young and old alike.
Eric is the one who convinced me that I needed to get on the ball. Before I read his articles (one of which is archived in the TR blog), if you had asked me “are you a competent swimmer?”, my answer would have been “sure, I can swim”. Eric got a little more specific, however, and defined “competent” as “can you swim 500 yards in rough water”, to which I regretfully had to answer “no, I don’t think so…”
Easier to BS yourself if your mates don’t get specific, and it was a great reality check for me. If Eric says competence = at least 500 yards in rough water, that’s carved in stone for me! So if you’ll take this duckling under your wing, I’ll quack till I’m hoarse. How far I’ll get on the first swim remains to be seen, but I’m tenacious and determined to exchange my totem animal – the Giant Sea Slug – for something more svelte. A dolphin, perhaps, but I’d be happy with a plucky minnow….
Moulton, so this is where all the cool kids hang out. I finally got around to reading your blog post and it was worth the trip here. I guess I’ve heard most of this from the discussions we have had, but you do express it very well in this blog. Your humor is great and matched only by your imagination. Someday when I grow up I want to be just like you!
Moulton Avery says
Thanks for the kind words, Rick. The fact that I have any humor to express is due in large measure to people like you. Your friendship, hospitality, support, and wry sense of humor keep a smile on my face. The four days we spent paddling together last week were really uplifting. I had some real breakthroughs in terms of paddling, and it was great to have another paddler with whom to share my elation.
This is indeed where a lot of the cool kids hang out; a lot of very modest world-class paddlers regularly weigh in on the discussions. Unlike our K-12 days in school, however, these kids are inclusive rather than exclusive, and they’re supportive of paddlers like you and me who are not in the same league in terms of skill and experience. I believe that stems in part from the fact that they clearly love to share what they know, and have never lost sight of the fact that we all start our journey as beginners. Regardless of expertise, we all share the same reverence for that magical interaction between person, boat, paddle, and water, and the joy that awaits anyone daft enough to venture forth upon the waters in these marvelous little boats.
Paul Dickerson says
Not a ghost from your Christmas past but from your Greensboro past. We spoke several years ago when I was in the Fairfax area but we never got together. I was working for a company doing apt-to-condo conversions but when they realized the economy was souring, all were laid off and I returned to S.C. In the early 1970s, I frequently came to UNC-G Outing Club meetings since ours at Wake Forest was just getting started. You always had the “gift of gab” but now I realize you’re also skilled/gifted in writing. I’m not a priest but I really enjoyed the style of your Confession. Drop me a line. firstname.lastname@example.org
Moulton Avery says
Paul, it’s great to hear from you! I’m really glad you enjoyed the post. We were all wet-behind-the-ears newbies back in those days, and truly fortunate to have good mentors. I think about that a lot, and I guess it’s one of the reasons why I’m so keen on passing on what one of my most influential mentors, Louise Chatfield, called “the gift of knowledge”. One of the things she impressed upon me was that if you can get someone into the great outdoors, once they experience that sense of awe and wonder, it’s one hell of a lot easier to enlist them in the fight to protect the little that remains of wilderness.
The wilderness experiences that I had in the early 70s changed my life in ways that I couldn’t have imagined when my paws first hit the trail or my paddle, the water, and the UNC-G outing club was a big part of those formative years. Many of the best instructors that I know got their first real taste of wilderness through college and university outing clubs.
I think outdoor programs that make a special effort to involve some “old salts” in the instruction process – even if only for a special lecture or seminar – reap big rewards for their efforts. Any wilderness traveler who’s still alive and still getting out after thirty or forty years of knocking around in the great outdoors – trust me, that person has a wealth of knowledge to offer, much of which you won’t find in any textbook.