Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Learning What Cold Means When You're From the Tropics.

just finishing off at work before heading off for a spot of Irish music (I promised the gang I'd come because I made all of them watch the three-Muppet version of Danny Boy, so now I have to appear in person & accept whatever abuse they choose to heap upon my guilty head) and it's starting to look like another week of sparse posts. However, I had shared my story of how I learned about cold water over on Peconic Puffin and I thought that might just make a post in and of itself.

I posted this picture before, it was from a great ice paddle back in February. See that big smile on my face? Well, I'm smiling despite Camelback-hydration-system-freezing conditions because I'm all properly (extravagantly, even, thanks to TQ's extravagant Christmas gift, what a guy...) geared up for the conditions, right down to a thermos of soup and a thermos of cider in the day hatch. If I wasn't dressed right, I might have been a little frowny that day!

Now, the Puffin had taken a look at Chuck Sutherland's cold water site and had been suitably impressed to put up that link on his site, with a few of the quotes that really made him go "hmmm" - like 9 elite marines drowning in March when they'd capsized 100 yards from shore. Right before he'd posted it, I'd had a conversation with TQ that ended up with us both cracking up. OK, actually that's not uncommon with us, but in this case I didn't realize how funny what I was saying was, just rattling on quite earnestly, until I looked at TQ & saw that he had this HUGE grin on his face, and suddenly realized just how ridiculous what I was saying must have sounded to anyone who didn't spend their formative years in the tropics. It all had to do with my growing up in Hawaii, and what cold water is there vs. what cold water is here, and I just couldn't resist sharing the story. So now here's the same comment as sort of a cheater post!
This is the perfect time of year to be posting this stuff, too - it's the warm air that really lulls people into letting their guard down, but the water's still...oh, I think the official description is freakin' cold.

I had a lot to learn about cold water, having grown up in Hawaii, my idea of "cold water" was a little skewed - basically in Hawaii, "cold water" is when you don't feel like swimming for more than half an hour or so.

It's funny, too, my old Hawaiian standards of cold are apparently still alive & well right alongside what I've learned over the last few years of frostbite paddling & sailing. I'd almost moved back out there once, and last night I was telling TQ about how I'd planned to pack up my Romany & take it out there, figured it would be nice for winter paddling - and I used the phrase "and I'd be all snug and warm and all the surfskis & sitatops paddlers would be all jealous as they are freezing their okoles off"...and TQ started laughing at me, and in a second I realized what I'd just said & was cracking up myself. You can take the girl out of Hawaii...

Yeah, I had a thing or twenty to learn about "freezing" when I started paddling in the wintertime. Lucky for me, the first time I was ever out on water that was probably getting to cold-shock cold (and btw COMPLETELY underdressed for it, lake paddling in PA on a lovely warm October day), it was a friend of mine who was wearing a wetsuit who flipped. It was a class, this was my first year, we were practicing edging & bracing while the instructor taped our practice for discussion that evening (when we were dry, warm, and had post-paddle drinks in hand). Edging & bracing drills like that frequently lead to capsizes if you're really committing. She came up yelping but OK with the wetsuit. I woulda been miserable in my shorts & swimsuit! I was impressed - I think it was immediately after that trip I bought my first wetsuit.

I also didn't get as much out of that class as she did 'cause once I saw that, I got very timid about pushing my own limits. Was great when I had the right gear 'cause then I could get back to some serious playing.

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