Paddling into your senior years

BDN ILLUSTRATION BY ERIC ZELZ
Posted May 23, 2011, at 12:54 p.m.
Last modified May 24, 2011, at 12:06 a.m.

There is nothing like seeing your community from the water. Maine has a lot of good water and this time of year, many older people are drawn to the white water on some of Bangor’s nearby rivers such as the Passagassawakeag, Soudabscook, St. George, Kenduskeag and Dead. There is a fair amount of gray hair and beards in those races and one of those is my husband, Dan. He has been white water canoe racing over thirty years and for him, it’s a rite of spring that he would not want to miss.

Dan was so enamored of Maine’s white water that he bought me a canoe for a wedding present, which we used to paddle in most of these above-mentioned river races.  Canoeing with a spouse can be a make or break experience.  I highly recommend the wife take control of the stern, which is the back of the boat, so that the husband feels like he is indeed in charge of the boat’s direction by being in the bow and the wife can meanwhile not face unrelenting scrutiny. You need to put the stronger person in the bow anyway. There seemed to always be a lot of noise coming from the boats where the husband was in the stern.

This is truly a lifetime sport. In fact, in this year’s Passagassawakeag River race the oldest participant was 74 years old and the youngest was 7. We taught our children the sport and they thankfully took my place and in turn have their own passion for the water.

It would be important to say that there are very few women participating in these races, so if you are female looking for a sport that that may offer a competitive advantage, this could be for you.  And the fashion options are endless including even a snazzy boat and even snazzier paddles.

Unfortunately there are helmets required for some of these races, but that way everyone has helmet head at the end.

There are lots of professional photographers that take pictures at all the races, which you can peruse online and even buy.  A  phenomenon of today’s world is that you can be in a race, canoe, running or really anything, and then hours later find pictures of yourself all over the Internet.

Kayaking and canoeing offer excellent exercise opportunities even if you don’t race.  My brother spent a month cruising around the inlets and byways of Greenland in his Folbot folding kayak.  When he knew he was going to be staying there for a while, he ordered the Folbot and had it shipped to Greenland so it arrived about the time he did.  Judging from the amazing pictures he has been uploading to Facebook, this was probably the only way he and his wife were going to view some of the remote terrain that makes up our frigid neighbor to the north. There are plenty of icebergs floating about to watch out for, but they also make for fantastic photos.

There is no doubt that waterways offer wildness even in the most urban location. Next time you are planning vacations, consider seeing a place from a kayak or canoe’s point of view. Or, learn the sport now and next spring try one of the challenging and fun white water races in our region.

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