The Secret To A Long, Happy, Healthy Life | Kayak Angler Magazine | Rapid Media
Skills
A man paddling a vibe kayak while the sun goes down. Photo by Roberto Westbrook

A lifetime of paddling takes a toll and pays off

The alarm sounds but I’ve been tossing and turning for hours. Not because I’m excited, but to relieve the circulation in my hips. For breakfast, a high fiber muffin and calcium-enriched OJ. For lunch, I reach past my teenager’s chips and cakes to grab a protein bar and green apple. Somewhere between achy joints and healthy food, I realized I am getting old.

Out the door and into the truck. Pick up my young buddy and head to birddog a potential drum hole. We’ve heard stories of this spot and searched it out on Google Earth. Now we’re taking a winter Saturday to explore the spot before returning in the spring loaded for bear.

After an hour on the road, I slide out of the truck and groan. Standing up takes a second. It’s been a couple weeks since I’ve been in the ‘yak and I’m already feeling the neglect.

As we load our boats, a duck hunter asks where we’re going. When I tell him he says, “I like seeing guys keeping it real all winter.”

He knows the weather forecast. Low clouds hang over the grey water and cord grass. We’ve got a short break in the wind before it kicks up in the afternoon. Predicting a significant tailwind on the ride home, we take a gamble and paddle out on a long, wide bay that separates us from our destination.

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We’ve time a the last of the outgoing tide to carry us over mudflats and into open water. I paddle the distance. Not as fast as I used to but a lot smarter. I read the water, steer out of the current, change my position and adjust my grip, using every trick in my book to ease the pain and increase efficiency. We cross the bay and pick our way through a labyrinth of marsh creeks. The current is streaming into my bow while a mixture of anxiety and anticipation eases the pain.

A lifetime on the water takes a toll and pays off. Every time my joints creak and muscles ache I worry that my days in the kayak are numbered. For every old salt I know, I know two who’ve dropped out of the race. Where my strength weakens, experience and resolve are strong. I’m already in training to become a crotchety old salt.

I always admired Ponce de Leon searching for the Fountain of Youth. Even if the story isn’t true, I picture him chasing myths of eternal health and happiness instead of going after gold and silver. Unfortunately, he didn’t find the fountain, he found Florida. He was about my age, so I imagine he would have rather found the fountain.

When Zach and I reach the beach, I set eyes on one of the prettiest drum holes. Excited by the bars and sloughs we know will hold big redfish, we scout the beach and make plans for drum season.

That’s when the wind kicks up and fog rolls in. The weather window closes. By the time Zach and I push off the beach and pick our way through the marsh, rain is blowing sideways. We figured on the wind pushing us home, but we miscalculated the opposing current. As I rounded the last corner into the open bay, I can see whitecaps lined up like a corrugated tin roof. Surrounded by fog and blinded by the rain, I don't have time to worry. With the wind pushing me into the current, I ride wave after wave like an escalator across the bay. Each time I drop down a curl and spray flares the bow, my heart jumps into my throat and makes me giggle like a kid. Looks like I found that fountain of youth.

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