Daily Archives: June 13, 2012

“Just Another Day in Paradise”

By Johna Till Johnson
Photos by Vladimir Brezina

It’s late morning on a cool, rainy early June day.

Vlad and I have taken half a day off midweek for a training paddle—we need to get our mileage up for the Long Island circumnavigation we’ve got planned in a few weeks.

The currents aren’t right for too much, so we’ve decided to head down to Coney Island, land if possible for a late lunch, and return. (Boat landings are prohibited on the swimming beaches at Coney Island during the summer season, so we are not sure how the landing will work out…)

The day is oddly peaceful for midweek: Despite the usual ferry and commercial traffic, everything feels peaceful and subdued—muffled, perhaps, by the grey clouds that lower overhead and cling like cotton wadding to the buildings and bridges.

Cool, cloudy, muffled: Not what you’d normally think of as a wonderful day. Much less a heavenly one. But just south of Governor’s Island I overhear this exchange on the radio:

Captain 1: “How’s it going? We really need to get together sometime.”

Captain 2: (unintelligible crackle).

Captain 1: “Yeah, I hear ya! (chuckle). Just another day in paradise…”

Vlad  and I laugh at that, and wonder. Maybe the two are planning to get together in Bermuda, or the Bahamas? Surely New York Harbor on a cool, rainy day doesn’t qualify as “paradise”.

Guess what? By the end of our trip, I’m not so sure. Yes, we get shooed off the beach at Coney Island by the lifeguards. But we paddle across schools of dancing fish, peruse the Yellow Submarine…. and are greeted upon our return just at sunset by one of the most dramatic, spectacularly colorful rain showers either of us have ever seen.

Just another day in paradise? Look at the pictures, and you decide!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The best of these photos are enlarged on a full-width photo page. Take a look –>

All photos from the paddle are here. And for the Yellow Submarine of Brooklyn, see here.

Old, Bold Paddlers

By Johna Till Johnson

There’s an old saying, variously applied to pilots, Marines, race-car drivers, and other professional risk-takers: “There are old pilots. There are bold pilots. But there are no old, bold pilots.”

I was thinking of this as I swam my daily laps today, in the company of a woman who’d taken up aquatics after two hip replacements—which she attributed to 30 years of aerobics. She pointed out that Jane Fonda (aka aerobics queen) had to get both her hip and knee replaced.

And many runners have had to give up their beloved sport due to joint damage from years of pounding. Then there are the activities that are almost exclusively the province of the under-30 folks: Gymnastics. Professional dance. Skateboarding.

The message is that the world is full of things that you can’t do wholeheartedly for your whole life: You can’t be old and bold.

That got me to thinking: Kayaking is one of the few sports where that’s flat-out not true. Sure, whitewater appeals to younger athletes. But sea kayakers are at least as likely to be middle-aged or older.

Usually we complain about this. Sea kayakers bemoan the fact that our sport appears to be dominated by the middle-aged—maybe because that reminds us that we’re no longer the young hipsters.

But you know what? I like the fact we sea kayakers can be old and bold.

How bold? Well, the races I’ve paddled in don’t have age classes–just boat classes. And the guy who regularly wins the fastest, most competitive category turned 70 a few years ago (we think). At any rate, he got a lot faster after he retired.

Yep, you got that right—this guy routinely trounces 25-year olds.

And he’s not unusual. Older kayakers routinely show the young ‘uns up with feats of endurance and athleticism. And my dad, a natural athlete, kayaked until the last year of his life—when he was 79.

Kayaking is one of those rare sports in which technique and endurance are more important than strength and explosive power—which means you can keep getting better and better as you age.

In sum: There are plenty of old, bold kayakers. I aspire to be one!

Preparing to be bold (at the 2011 Blackburn Challenge)… and those are NOT white hairs, yet!