Paddling highlights of 2019 and 2020
In my last post, I promised I would also share some paddling highlights of the past two years, which didn't make it onto the blog. Here you go! Lots of photos, not much explanation...
The life of a kayaking club secretary
Lately I've been reflecting on why I haven't felt the excitement or urge to share and track my kayaking updates here on the blog. While I haven't posted here in a while, it's not for lack of a paddling life. It's the opposite really! Most of my paddling energy and enthusiasm has been channeled into my role as secretary of Never Dry (my kayaking club)... and Henk and I bought an apartment in early 2019, which we spent the following year renovating, next to our full time jobs. It's been busy to say the least! But this morning I felt a strange sense of calm and a rekindled urge to share how things have been going lately.
I started writing this morning intending to give a brief update about fun paddling activities. Instead, it turned into the post below about my experience as secretary of a Dutch paddling club over the past 3 years. Apparently I felt that I needed to put this on paper before I could move forward. It wouldn't feel right to only post about some individual paddling experiences, because nearly all of them occurred in the context of the story below.
It's been an incredible learning experience. I regularly find parallels between our small Rotterdam paddling community and other parts of my life where different types of people need to work together: at work, in our home owner association, and even when reading about politics. As someone who doesn't easily approach someone I don't know, this role has given me a means to get to know so many club members, both new and old. And lately, it's been particularly rewarding, and that's what I'm excited to share here.
It feels weird to have to say this, but everything below is my own perspective/experience (not necessarily that of others involved in our club). I'm sure I'm forgetting some important details/contributions - if you're reading this and you think I should add something, please let me know :)
On April 7th, 2019, the first kayakers of 2019 set foot on the Marker Wadden islands. The islands are nestled in the northeast corner of Markermeer, a large manmade lake east of Amsterdam.
It's late november, but the sun still seems to come out every weekend. 2018 has been a gorgeous year, and it doesn't seem ready to give way to winter yet. Yes, the nights are getting colder, but as long as it's not raining, you'll still find me on the water, with a few extra layers!
This weekend, a group of intrepid paddlers headed out for a local paddle on the Kralingse Plas (lake in Rotterdam). Fiona inspired Marieke to go for a paddle, and Bonnie inspired Nena. And Iede is always self-inspired!
Bonnie, a friend from California who joined me in the Hague and Utrecht a couple years ago, is back in Delft for a month. Apparently, she was not scared away by the torrential rain we endured in Utrecht, and was ready for another adventure. After brunch at Man Met Bril Cafe, we stopped by my apartment to grab piles of non-cotton fuzzy or waterproof layers before heading to the club. It was a crisp fall/winter day, and our bare fingers did not enjoy the bike ride.
Marieke, Fiona, and Iede were already at the club when we arrived. Fiona is a friend of Marieke's who is visiting from Melbourne for work and is training for a kayaking race back home. We layered and layered, with Fiona setting the record at 4 layers on her legs. Armored with our wool hats, mittens, and spray/dry-tops, we launched into the breezier-than-expected lake. Getting my sprayskirt on with cold fingers was more of a struggle than usual. It's really time for me to get a different sprayskirt which better fits my boat...
Have I mentioned that I'm really missing my old boat lately? I've really been craving a chance to paddle the same model (Valley Avocet RM) again, to see how it compares to my new boat. I haven't had the opportunity to make a direct comparison, since there was a 2-year break between the two boats. There's a lady at my club who has the same boat and doesn't seem to use it, but I've never met her. Maybe I should email her...
We paddled around the lake twice - the first time with all 5 of us, and the second time with Bonnie, Iede, and myself. The slanted winter sun lit up the north side of the lake, highlighting a few remaining yellow trees. Iede surprised us by practicing 3 rolls before getting out of the boats. His onside roll was looking great! Nice and smooth. Someone's been practicing :)
Back in the warm clubhouse, we ran into Anaïs (Never Dry member) and Wiebke (mutual friend), who came for a run around the lake. We sipped on tea and had a good chat before parting ways. It was a satisfying glimpse of the role I hope the club will play more and more in my life: a warm space for spontaneous meetings of friends with a common appreciation for spending time outside.
Back in October 2016, after two years living in the Netherlands and Belgium, I made my first trip back to the US. My first stop was San Francisco, to visit friends and colleagues and my favorite sites around SF Bay and the open coast. Some of my favorite California kayaking buddies and I spent an afternoon on the water in Sausalito. Two years have passed since this trip, so this post will be more photos than words...
Today we have a guest post by friend and fellow Never Dry member, Nathalie! She writes about a beginner day trip on the Rotte River that I (Nena) organized for new members of the club. Edited and commented by Nena, with comment in brackets .
Today I went on my first official kayak tour with Never Dry!! Destination: Café Oud Verlaat along the Rotte River. [Nathalie and I were joined by Marieke, Francisco, Berend, Kim, Anais, Anton, and Iede, a very energetic, happy, and enthusiastic group!]
The day began with a lot of rain and even some thunder, which made me unsure of whether we would make it to our destination (easily). I rode my bike to the club, arriving damp but excited to paddle and ready to prepare for the trip.
Last May, Anais and Anton invited us to join them an a couple Canadian friends on a canoeing day trip and BBQ in the Biesbosch. Fully aware of the culinary abilities of A&A, we enthusiastically said Yes!
This weekend was abnormally warm for October. Actually, record-breakingly warm. A few of us decided to spend it on the water! Tom, Berend, and I spent Sunday exploring a new (to me) part of Haringvliet, a former estuary-turned-lake just south of Rotterdam.
Sometimes I like to set goals, and occasionally check in to see how things are going. It's always satisfying when you realize you've made progress towards a goal, without consciously thinking about it for a while. Back in March I was having a bit of a kayaking existential crisis, which inspired me to put together a set of goals for 2018 to get myself back on track. Let's see how it's been going!
1. Blog a lot!
The goal was to write an average of two posts per month. It's early October now, so I should have 2*9+1 = ~19 posts. As of this post, I'm at 24! So I've already met my goal for the year, and expect to exceed it by at least a few posts.
2. Paddle a lot!
Obviously meeting Goal #1 requires, to a certain extent, Goal #2. However, let's look at the data. I wanted to paddle in 10 new locations, and a total of 350 km. Here are the new locations:
Additional distance covered in non-new locations: 20+ ~8 km + 10 km + 4*8? = ~70 km
Total distance so far: ~324 km (probably a bit more). I think I will manage to paddle in ~2 additional new locations this year, and the distance goal should not be an issue given trips that are already on the calendar!
Verdict: On track! / basically complete
3. Do a couple open coast paddles!
I wanted to paddle in two different locations on the open coast in the Netherlands. Success! Went for some fun trips on the North Sea (again in a few weeks) and on the Wadden Sea.
4. Refresh my Greenland paddling & rolling skills
At the time of the goals blog post (which I wrote in the US), I had presumptively written that I'd brought my Greenland paddles with me to the Netherlands. However, that did not actually happen, so this goal quickly hit a wall. I've been thinking about giving up on bringing my paddles over from the US (big hassle), and instead making my own here. That's something I've always wanted to do, and I have a few friends who I can rely on for email-based paddle-making advice (Ben & Mike!). Let's see how that evolves over the rest of the year... I really miss Greenland paddling and rolling, and I would get back a big part of my kayaking identity by bringing it back into my practice.
Verdict: No progress, but hopeful
5. Find my paddling community
This was my main goal for the year, and I'm proud to say that it's the one I've made the most progress on. It's certainly nowhere near "complete," but some concrete steps have been taking!
Some specific updates:
Verdict: Going well, can always improve!
6. Write a few more Water Nerd posts.
Hmmmm how do you define a "few"? I would say 3. SO far this year, I've written one new Water Nerd post, describing sandbar migration near Stellendam, the first place I paddled on the North Sea. I'm not really hopeful that I'll write two more posts this year, as the motivation isn't there, and I'd prefer to direct my energy towards #4 and #5... When I first made the Water Nerd section of the website, I was really excited about my work as a coastal engineer and its intersection with kayaking. Now that the content of my work has changed a bit, I"m a bit less inspired/excited to write about it or research things I encounter during my paddles. It's sad, but I hope that, as is so often the case with my non-kayaking hobbies, this is a temporary phase that will pass, bringing a new phase of inspiration!
Verdict: Not on track, but that's alright?
7. Name my new boat!
While this may sound like the easiest of the goals above, I'm finding it quite difficult. I got so many good suggestions, but a good name just needs to stick. My terrible memory isn't helping, either. There have been a few occasions when a name is mentioned during a paddle, and I say "yes, that's the one!" and promptly forget it... After requesting help in naming my new kayak, the suggestions rolled in - thanks everyone! Many of them play to the name of my first kayak, Big Purple. Maybe it's fun to share the full list with you - feel free to vote in the comments!
Complete (and growing) list of potential names (my favorite names in bold):
Verdict: Not on track
When we recieved an invitation to Tanya and Ken's wedding in Switzerland, I jumped at the opportunity to go on another kayaking and hut trip in the Alps! My first kayaking trip in Switzerland, on Lake Brienz, was (and still is) one of my most beautiful paddling experiences, and I hoped to recreate it on another Swiss lake. We planned to attend the wedding on Saturday, do a hut trip on Sunday/Monday, and go kayaking on Tuesday before flying out Tuesday evening - busy to say the least! Before building it up too much, I'll warn you that the paddling experience was a bit disappointing, but the wedding and hut trip were wonderful!
This is a blog about exploring the outdoors (mostly by kayak), traveling, trip planning, and coastal engineering. It currently focuses on kayaking in the Netherlands and Belgium, but previous posts cover Upstate New York, California, and much more. See the Complete List of Blog Posts for a history of the site. Looking for something specific? Search the site here.
In addition to the blog, check out the Water Nerd section, where I write about coastal engineering and hydrology.
Email updates on new blog posts, about once per month.
Click the "Read More" link at the bottom of each summary for more photos, to see an interactive map of the route, and to read about the adventure.
Maps in each blog post: Click the icons to learn more about the launch site (amenities) and destinations. Click the square in the bottom-left corner to see an aerial photo behind the route.
Click the RSS Feed link, copy the URL, and paste it into your favorite feed reader.