In honor of the upcoming Valentine's Day holiday, we're profiling a paddling couple this month. Questions below were answered by Emily, with input from Paul.
1) Where are you from? Paul is from Florida's right coast and I am from its left coast, which may explain our differing political viewpoints. Paul grew up in Lantana, and we now both reside in my hometown of Sarasota.
2) When and how did you become interested in kayaking? We really enjoyed a brief kayak tour we took with co-workers off Boca Grande. Then we learned that we had friends and family members with kayaks readily available for borrowing, and that sealed the deal.
3) Where is your favorite place to paddle? Choosing a favorite is difficult as we haven't yet found a spot we didn't like and have so many places we want to try. But for ease of access, interesting animal viewing (including the human variety), and ability to easily flip into clear, warm saltwater for a swim, we'd have to say tootling around the mangroves of Sarasota Bay is a favorite. When the long days of summer are upon us, we can make an after-work decision to go for a paddle and be on the water in less than 15 minutes.
4) What made you decide to go on a Paddle Florida trip? Ultimately, it was the opportunity to introduce our teenage niece and cousin to Florida's natural beauty. We signed up for the Peace River weekend, packed up the kids, forgot our tent fly, and joined the group. To those of you on that trip who still remember us: our sincere apologies. Having the type of quality time with our family that Paddle Florida provided was just priceless.
5) What did you enjoy most about the PF trip you went on? We've had the pleasure of doing both the Peace River and St. Johns River Ramble with Paddle Florida. The birds, manatees, and serenity during early morning launches certainly made both trips enjoyable. But nothing beats the company! We enjoyed meeting such kind, interesting, and fun characters along the way. To this day, family discussions often revolve around the people we met, conversations we had, and songs we made up on those trips. The people make the paddle.
6) Would you go on another PF trip? Absolutely...but you may have to convince us first that the temperature won't drop to 18 degrees! We were among the very brave and determined paddlers who survived the freezing cold of the December 2010 St. Johns River Ramble. When Paul is asked about his willingness to try another winter paddle, he replies "My litmus test is simple. If I'm going to wake up in the morning with ice crystals in my tent, then maybe. If you promise me a cup of cold coffee and a basket of biscuits with frozen butter, then I'm in!" [Editor's Note: This is why our Wekiva/St. Johns trip has moved to April!]
7) Does kayaking together strengthen your relationship or do you sometimes want to hit each other with a paddle? We usually get along okay while kayaking. Generally any frustration we have toward each other gets redirected to our teenage companions. We do get a little competitive though. Paddle Florida rules state nothing about drafting behind then passing your partner as you aim your boat to the shore like a torpedo in an attempt to arrive at the lunch rendezvous first in your group.
In retrospect, kayaking has helped us better understand each other. Though Paul knew I was an outdoorsy girl, he didn't truly realize how strong my need for outdoor adventure and the simple joys that come with paddling and camping were until we went on these trips. Likewise, I have become increasingly thankful for Paul's willingness to try new activities and the humor with which he approaches these adventures.
8) Describe your most stressful moment in a kayak. Was your partner helpful at the time? We both agree that our most stressful time occurred while tandeming on the bay in really choppy waters. What we can't reach agreement on is why it was stressful. Laughing uncontrollably as I related my ride in the back of the boat to that of a cowboy on a bucking bronco, I was having the time of my life. Feeling the instability of the front seat as waves broke over the bow, Paul envisioned himself as a passenger on the Titanic. "I'm out of here!" Paul shouted as he began paddling the tandem with reckless abandon to the nearest shore. I was convinced that once Paul dragged us both to shore (a nearby yet remote mangrove island), he would refuse re-boarding and I'd have to either leave him there or live the life portrayed in Gilligan's Island. I dragged my paddle, legs, arms, and anything else that could hang out of the boat in hopes of tiring Paul out. Ultimately, this and some 'verbal coaching' got us through the trip.
9) Does a tandem or two single kayaks work best for you? Believe it or not, we attempted tandem kayaking one more time on the Myakka River while enjoying a paddle with friends. Ignoring the difficulty of having two control freaks in the boat which caused us to hit bank after bank on our trip downstream, I suggested we navigate a narrower path to a bridge where people like to view alligators. We too enjoyed watching the alligators until we once again brushed up against a bank, both pushed off from the same side of the boat, and ended up in the drink. Really big alligators present a powerful motivating force for climbing back in a boat quickly! We decided on that day to retire the 'relationship boat'. We have been paddling together, separately, ever since.