10 Jun

Homage to boating

It’s not always easy to explain why it is that I love water sport. It could be the simple fact that I’m outside in nature (or at the very least out in fresh air). There’s also the biological that that exercise releases endorphins and that, by definition makes people happy. And of course it’s impossible to deny that I absolutely love the travel that comes with the sport, when I care to indulge myself a bit and travel in over to row.

In fact, some of the most fun that I have rowing can actually be when I’m thinking about it as much as actually doing it. Often at night if I’m having trouble falling asleep I like to plan out my fantasy water sport holidays. Top of the list would be probably have to be taking a couple of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn and getting the canoe and heading for three months down the Mississippi, exploring the history and the culture—both before and after the region was colonised by Europeans.

It doesn’t have to be those opportunities for flights of fancy that attract me to rowing—and at this point I should confess that I don’t care if it’s kayak, canoe, raft, or anything, so long as I’m out there on the water. While the chances that the sport gives to indulge in a couple of escapist fantasies are great, it’s no substitute for actually getting out there and doing it.

Lately, my favourite has been rowing on nearly frozen waters. In my area the rivers don’t quite freeze over in the winter, but rather ice up round the edges. While it can wreck havoc on the hull of my favourite kayak, for example, to bump into ice, there’s a certain stillness and peace to being out on the river with bits of ice in the quiet. It takes a bit of physical fortification to want to get out in the cold and if I’m honest with you, there have been more times that I’ve cancelled my icy plans than gone through with. (Sometimes a warm bed on an icy winter morning is too alluring a temptation not to forgo a bit of a paddle.)

But above all, I think what is the most attractive aspect of the sport is the simple headspace that it provides for me. Many athletes describe a feeling of bliss and serenity when they are competing it or practising their chosen sport. I am by no stretch of the imagination a proper athlete but it must be said that I do very much feel that my might is most clear my, thoughts most lucid when I’m on a boat. I can’t imagine how more intensive athletes feel that way—sports with sudden movements and quick responses like in tennis—but I find I think best. And for me there’s no better marriage than that of mind and body. And as such I am eternally indebted to water sports.