June 2011

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live on the move Different Strokes Skimming along on a kayaking adventure By Meagan Parrish We Madisonians love our lakes, but the sad truth is that they’re not always very appealing to jump into (all-natural algae body wrap, anyone?). Th ankfully, there are plenty of other ways to enjoy the local wa- terways, including the particularly popular water-based sport: kayaking. So on a recent warm day, I picked up a paddle and headed to Rutabaga Paddles- ports, the Madison area’s foremost paddling supplier, for a beginner lesson in handling this little boat. Located near Lake Monona, the class began with a quick lesson on the basics before we walked off to a little bay where our kayaks waited. Th e learning began the minute I tried to board. A tippy contraption, kayaks at fi rst feel like they’re trying to toss you in the water (shouldn’t it be the other way around?). But with a few stabilization tips, courtesy of our friendly instructor, Erica Munson, it didn’t take long before I got the hang of maneuvering my vessel around the water. With my balance in check, we worked on paddling, tackling forward strokes, back strokes, swiveling fi gure-eight strokes. After a few hours of practicing and work- ing up a sweat, we were ready for a “long paddle” into the lake. Picking up the pace as we headed out, I started to feel the cardio boost of consis- tent paddling and realized: kayaking can be a nice challenge on a long journey, or if you take it slow, pretty leisurely (and if it’s windy enough for the current to carry your craft, it’s frankly not hard at all!). But for those who love disguising fi tness as outdoor fun, kayaking does the trick. Not only does the constant tightening of your core to stabilize the kayak get your abs burning, there’s all the arm-toning action that comes with learning the strokes. And as we made our way under the Belt- line and down the skinny waterways south of Monona, the other benefi ts of this sport hit me, too: the fresh air, sunny skies, a new perspective on a city I thought I’d already seen from every angle. From pad- dling past fallen trees to tiny turtles and 16 BRAVA Magazine June 2011 Where to go: In addition to the classes offered by Rutagaba, the UW Hoofer Outing Club also offers lessons in recreational kayaking. freshly hatched goslings, I was so wrapped up in the adventure, I didn’t even notice I was breathing hard. By the time we got back, both my body Quick Tips What to wear: You’ll get wet! It’s best to wear light layers and swimwear. Bring a towel and be sure to lather on sunscreen and bug repellent before you go. What to expect: Slightly sore arms and all the elated feelings that accompany being outdoors. A word of caution: You (most likely) won’t fall in. According to our instructor, men are more likely to tip over than women because they hold their center of gravity high. But just in case, Rutabaga’s brave instructors can demonstrate how to handle a tip-over (it’s not that bad) and advise you to paddle close to shore. and my appreciation for our waterways was renewed. And I’m excited to have found a new way to enjoy our lakes in the coming summer months. Photos by Brittney Scharine

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