I enjoy getting to know people and learning about their lives and passions. For my cousin Kelli, one of those passions is kayaking, which is one of many things we have in common. Kelli and I purchased our kayaks about the same time, but since we live more than two hours apart, we rarely get a chance to paddle together. I was curious about why Kelli kayaks and what she likes best about this sport. Here’s a bit of our conversation:
When did you start kayaking?
I rented kayaks twice, the first time about 10 years ago. I purchased my own about four years ago.
What drew you to kayaking or why’d you start?
My husband and I canoed many times, even before we were married. He likes to sit in the back to control the speed and direction, and often asks me not to paddle. Sitting around is nice for a while, but it is also not very exciting. I decided to try kayaking so I could control a watercraft myself.
What kind of kayak do you own and do you like it?
I have a 10-foot sit-on kayak. I did a lot of research before purchasing it, and although it not as agile as some kayaks, it is very stable and stays true to direction when paddling. The seat adjusts several ways, which I also like. I am not a strong swimmer, and although I always wear my lifejacket, I love the idea that a sit-on kayak is almost impossible to sink.
Where do you like to paddle?
The backwaters of the Mississippi River and the Wisconsin River. Smaller streams are often filled with the party crowd on weekends and that is not my scene.
About how often do you go paddling?
I’ve gone as early as Feb. 19, when there was still ice on at least half of the Mississippi, and the latest I’ve gone is Nov. 17. In the summer, I like to go as often as possible, which is about 3-4 times a month. I’d like to do it more though.
Do you like going by yourself or with others?
I like going by myself, which is something I initially did not think I would enjoy. I’ve always been afraid of the water, but now I have mostly made peace with it. I also like going with just one or two people and casually floating along, visiting and having snacks.
Why do you like kayaking?
It’s one of the few times my mind goes quiet. Also, I like seeing nature. Traveling in such a quiet way allows me to get closer and see more.
What’s your favorite kayaking memory?
I don’t have any one favorite, just many moments like an amazing sunset, a dragonfly landing on my knee, water drops on a water lily, exploring islands and sandbars, seeing nature and laughing with a friend.
What’s your scariest or worst kayaking story/memory?
It took me a while to figure out that I don’t have to be scared about boats going by too fast and creating wake. Inconsiderate boaters and intoxicated boaters can be a concern when the river is busy. One time I got caught out after dark. I now carry a headlamp, extra batteries and glowsticks in my dry bag.
What’s the best place you’ve kayaked?
They are all my favorites when I’m there.
What makes a good kayaking trip?
A quiet river, quiet wind and a quiet mind.
Thank you, Kelli, for your knowledge and inspiration! I’m glad kayaking helps you find peace in your days. We all need to find that special place or activity that brings calmness into our life.