What I Learned From A Few Hours of Kayaking

I went Kayaking a couple weeks ago with my Fiancee Sarah. She loves to Kayak. I love the outdoors and being with her, so kayaking is a win-win for both of us. We were joined by some friends of ours. A couple a little over a year into their marriage.

We arrived to the lake and met our guide. Loaded into the kayaks and set out onto the water. We then spent the next 2 – 3 hours exploring the area. As is the case in situations like this, I found myself extrapolating life lessons from the experience. Perhaps it was the struggle of kayaking against the wind, or coordinating our movements to advance the kayak forward. I am not sure, but the struggle seems to bring out some of the best lessons.

Anyway, in the midst of all this I realized something. This experience, kayaking with Sarah, is much like marriage.

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I set out confident in my abilities to kayak. I mean, come on, I am an Eagle Scout. I have spent my fair share on the water with a paddle in my hand. (And by fair share, I mean a few trips with my troop and enough to earn a Merit Badge in Canoeing). I may not be Moana’s brother, but I felt pretty good about myself out there on the water.

Needless to say, there were times when we struggled. We struggled coordinating our pace and direction, navigating narrow canals, and often found ourselves off track as a result.

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Meanwhile, our friends seemed to cruise through the water. I want to chalk it up to the kayak or some other factor, but truth be told I think they were in sync much more often than we were. They navigated the same canals with relative ease and moved rather quickly over the open water, even into the wind.

We alternated positions in the kayak. One person taking the lead seat (which, according to our guide, was largely responsible for paddling their tail off to propel the kayak forward) and the other in the rear seat (largely responsible for direction while adding some paddling power when they could).  I started out in the rear seat, then transitioned to the lead seat. Both were challenging for different reasons, but I gained an appreciation for how hard Sarah worked as the “engine” shortly after assuming control of the lead seat. You see, it was easy for me to sit in the rear seat and think to myself “I bet we would be moving faster if I were up there…”

As it turns out, where I was in the boat had very little impact on our success.

Fortunately, we improved with time. Communicated better, coordinated our movements, navigated the narrow canals with relative ease the 2nd time around. As a result, the 2nd half of our kayaking excursion was much better than the first. We were a team. As a result, we went farther, faster, together. The amazing thing is the fact that we accomplished this after hours of exhaustive struggle. We truly were better together. The main contributing factor was not our position in the kayak, but how well we coordinated our efforts. When in sync, we glided through the water. Out of sync, we slammed into the canal walls and zig zagged across the water like a novice sailor on the open sea.

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I think marriage is going to be a lot like that. I am going into this season confident in my skills, abilities, and experience. Much like with kayaking, I am sure I will be humbled VERY quickly when it comes to marriage. There will be times when we struggle to communicate, navigate challenging situations, and find ourselves off track. We will slam into canal walls and zig zag all over the place. We will be exhausted from our efforts if we do not work together as a team.

However, we will also experience the triumph of cruising through the water that comes from working together. We will go further, faster, together.

 

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