Soul Surfing - Robyn Brown
Playground rapids on the Slave River, June 2020. Photo credit: David Postman.
The Mountain Portage rapids on the Slave River are my happy place. Here is a beginner-friendly wavetrain called “the playground”, a great park-and-play, which means you don’t have to organize shuttle vehicles because you put-in and take-out at the same place. The Playground is where I first learned to kayak and where I’ve introduced many new friends to the river. It’s my go-to spot to warm up in the start of the paddling season and for the past few years I would go there solo more often than with a group. Paddling solo I always took it slow and very attuned to my surroundings, which had a more tranquil and soulful vibe compared to paddling in groups.
A few of those friends I introduced to kayaking over the past few years are progressing and buying their own gear and they’ve been able to join me for the early part of this paddling season, so I haven’t been going solo this spring. Having your own boat, drysuit and gear is a game changer - it allows you the freedom to paddle whenever, wherever, and for however long you desire. Owning your own gear also gives you more confidence and comfort to push yourself and progress faster, whether you want to bombproof your roll, practice surf tricks, or just do some refreshing soul surfing.
For me, there is nothing more peaceful than surfing my kayak on a smooth wave. After those first few energetic strokes to get onto the wave, once I catch it I can feel my boat settle into the flowing curves, and my mind enters a meditative-like state. I focus on the feeling of the water beneath my hull, the roar of the rapids, and the light reflecting off the glossy waves all around me. It feels like flying. It is a combination hit of freedom and connection to nature all at once. That’s what I mean by soul surfing.
If you haven’t yet, join a club and take some clinics. This will not only get you started out right, but will also help you find your paddling tribe. I’m grateful to be part of The Fort Smith Paddling Club, Team Aquabatics, and my local paddling friends. It’s incredible how fast and strong we paddlers bond together over our shared love of rivers. Find your tribe and get soul surfing.