About the time he turned 6 we had graduated to a nicer canoe with 3 seats in it. On camping trips at the lake we would tie a long rope to the bow and let him “solo” paddle wherever the rope would let him go. In a couple years his mom finally let me turn him loose from the rope. You could see the excitement in him as he took the canoe out for his first real solo trip. When he finally paddled back to shore he had a little swagger as he walked back to camp. You could see his self confidence increase tenfold after his first excursion.
As a dad, I have to admit, my chest sort of puffed up too. I knew he could do it, but watching him discover that for himself was a great experience. His newfound independence led to an interesting crossroads for our paddling family. He could fish on his own, and now he could paddle on his own so we needed to rethink our boat situation. A classified ad in our local paper led to our first taste of kayaking. The first trip to the lake was like the beginning of a wonderful sickness.
Ethan was the first to paddle and he loved the kayak. He was fast and he was in control, sort of the master of his fishing destiny if you will. Again another surge in confidence was plainly evident in him. The biggest surprise came when he got out of the boat. His mom expressed interest in trying out the kayak! I was not expecting that, but seeing her smile that day I knew our canoeing days were coming to an end. Within a short period of time, the canoe had been sold and was replaced with a kayak for each of us.
I can’t begin to tell you how big of a blessing that kayaking has been to our family. I have watched my bride grow into an experienced flat water paddler and she surprised me this past year taking my Coosa through some class 2 and 3 rapids. I figured she would never speak to me again after that but she is already planning a return trip. I have watched my son grow from a tiny tot wanting his own paddle to a strong paddling young man who is a force to be reckoned with on the water.
We have paddled in our Alabama and Georgia water and in awesome places like Tennessee Rivers, the Okefenokee Swamp, the Gulf coast and the Florida Keys. Having our own individual craft allows us to fish as hard as we want, in the areas we like and using our own techniques. It also frees us up to paddle however we like to. A typical family outing for us is paddling together until a big ski boat passes and then my son and I race to jump the waves. I guess boys will always be boys!
We paddle together to fish, we paddle just for fun and have even found a way to use our kayaks as a ministry to folks in our community. I can honestly say we have grown individually and as a family because of these little plastic boats. The conversations, experiences and adventures that we have had in our kayaks are priceless and precious and I am very thankful for them.