“Kayak” is not “Kayak” Backwards

Today was the first full day of this year’s Florida vacation. I arrived last night (after a significant flight delay), was reunited with my family, and awoke to the familiar (and amazing) sounds of my kids demanding attention.

We decided to take a kayak trip at the Palma Sola Bay in Bradenton and after a quick trip to a place called Beach Unlimited for some new water shoes for the kids, we were ready!

The push off point was at the Palma Sola Causeway and we pulled up to the famous “Surfer Bus” to rent kayaks. H and the kids have kayaked before here and they couldn’t wait to let me in on the fun. The first dilemma, however, occurred pretty quickly. The 3 kids knew we were renting 3 2-person kayaks and all three wanted to pair up with Daddy. Of course, this is always a dilemma. One that not only runs the risk of hurt feelings but also of my personal concerns of favoritism. Fortunately, 2 of them decided to partner with mommy and grandpa and let their younger brother (we call him Boo) be Daddy’s partner.

Boo got his life jacket on, got in the front seat and quickly said to me, “Daddy, come on, let’s go!”. You see, we were the last to leave and he couldn’t stand it that the other 2 kayaks had started out on their journey.

You would think that having the kid that couldn’t paddle would be a disadvantage and you would be right. In fact, I was thinking I made a poor decision from the start as it seemed like I could not make up any ground on the leaders of the pack. This, despite my flawless technique and the contortionistic posture I put myself into to be as aerodynamic as possible 😉 Fortunately, Boo was giving me positive reinforcement.

Boo: Daddy let’s go faster!

Me: I’m trying buddy.

Boo: Daddy, you are strong, you can do it.

Me: Thanks buddy. (pant pant) I’m trying…

Boo: Daddy, maybe we are slower because we are heavier.

Me: Thanks buddy.

As we proceeded towards a small passageway lined with mangrove trees, we ran aground on very shallow water. I had to get out and pull the kayak for a good 20 meters.

Boo: Yup, we were too heavy.

Me: Thanks buddy.

Kayaking through mangrove trees is a super cool experience. I’m sure during the height of humid summer with bugs flying all around your head, it may be less desirable but here in January, the weather was cool and the scenery was gorgeous. I got Boo to turn around and pose for a quick photo. (not too easy paddling, taking a photo, and trying not to hit branches at the same time.)

Boo: Daddy, why don’t you just take one picture and concentrate on paddling.

Me: I need a picture for the blog buddy.

Boo: Will this go on Facebook too?

Me: Yes.

Boo: Ok, one more picture.

So, the other 2 boats decided to show mercy and stopped paddling so we could catch up. They said it was because they wanted to admire the scenery but I’m convinced it was because they had pity on me. We weaved through Robinson Preserve under bridges, through mangroves, and along gorgeous estuary beds.

Eventually we opened up to the bay and headed towards an island with a large oyster bed. This was unlike anything I have experienced before. The bed was dried out oyster shells and very sharp and sorta painful on our watershoed feet. On the oyster bed the kids found some cool starfish, and shells, and after overturning some clusters of oyster shells some live crabs.

This was the midway part of our journey and I was tired and had started to develop blisters on my hands. Paddling for 2 and being super heavy ain’t easy folks. Despite my flawless technique it was with rented equipment so not ideal. At least that’s what I tell myself when the thought that I am a land lover who never really took to water vehicles (especially self propelled ones) comes to mind.

My point is I was not looking forward to the paddle back. The blisters on my hands were just about to burst and while I was excited about this good upper body workout I was getting, I wasn’t sure I could get through it. But Boo saved the day:

Me: I’m tired Boo.

Boo: Daddy, you can do it!

Me: My hands hurt.

Boo: Daddy, thanks for being my partner. Let’s get to the mangroves first.

We pushed off from the island and quickly ran aground again in shallow water.

Me: I’m going to have to get out again Boo.

Boo: Go daddy go!

After about 10 minutes of silent paddling and with the other two kayaks way ahead of us it was basically just the 2 of us on a journey back home.

Then something remarkable happened.

Boo: Daddy, the best thing about Chima is they are making a tv show on it. Maybe it will be like Ninjago and Clutch Powers.

The kid is always talking about Legos but I welcomed the change of topic as the only thing on my mind was whether the organisms in the water would infect my open blisters. It was just me and him and we just chatted about anything and everything.

We chatted more about Chima Legos.

Then we sang songs.

Then we talked about Star Wars Angry Birds.

All of a sudden the pain in my hands didn’t matter. Catching up to the other kayaks didn’t matter either. What mattered was the time we had together and it was something I wanted to savor.

So you see, in the palindromic sense of the word, “Kayak” is indeed “Kayak” backwards. But in the case of a fun day out, the return trip despite the fact the path was identical (just in reverse) was quite different.

I will remember today as a great day out with my family and the special time I had with my 5 year old. This was just day 1 of 7 for this vacation. I’m looking forward to what’s next this week!

Gregory Ng

GOAL: Visit 100 National Parks as a family by 2020. Favorite Parks: Zion National Park, Mt Rainier National Park, Valley Forge National Historical Park

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