I give myself a sweep of the paddle and as my boat spins I survey the pool. Other kayaks are on the deck as students get their gear on and pick one. I set my paddle on the water and wind my body to the left. As my arms start to reach out my eyes close and I dive into the water. I feel the boat flip over as I try to twist myself underneath it. I slowly exhale to keep the hyper-chlorinated water out of my sinuses…an effort that will eventually fail.
Some people do this with grace and fluidity. Their body and their boat are one as they move through water and air. For me it is violent, the fight that prey have with inevitability. The boat has my legs and isn’t letting go. It wants control. It wants me in the water. Practice allows me to keep panic at bay and the world shrinks to just the air in my lungs, the movement of my torso and the will to get upright.
My hands break the surface of the water. My hips snap in a massive thrash as I bring the boat to heel and make it come upright under me again. I rotate onto my back and swing one arm to finish. As I sit upright, my eyes open and the world comes into focus. Liquid pours off my face and out of my nose. The pool is disturbed and splashing at the sides. I take a breath as I look for the paddle.