Kayaking at Shelter Island
Guest Blog written by Erika Rogness of Outdoor Outreach
Standing in the parking lot of Shelter Island Marina, I began walking toward the Marine Corps Community Services bus when it pulled into the lot. The teens looked a little concerned as we headed over to the area where Maria, Michael, and I had set up the tandem kayaks and paddles. Worries were expressed before we even began the name game around the circle. How many people were in a kayak? How easy were they to tip? What happens if you fall out? How deep is the water? What animals are in the water? Reasonable reactions for youth growing up in military families, they were simply assessing the situation and planning their next steps as much as possible. All concerns were put at ease through Maria Humphrey of Family Kayak Adventure Center, our experienced kayak partner, as she walked them through kayak safety and how to use their paddles.
We all set out and headed toward Shelter Island Park Beach. This definitely proved to be one of our most challenging trips yet and taught the kids more about communication, leadership, and teamwork than most of our excursions. Gliding on the water, it was fairly easy paddling out past the marina where all the boats were parked and we enjoyed reading their different names. Some of us took our time and talked to others as we tandem kayaked out. Then, the sun broke through the clouds and the wind picked up. Apparently, mother nature thought it was time to kick our trip up a notch. The wind was adding an element that most of the teens had not planned for.
Fighting against the wind, teens started scrambling to paddle faster without rhyme or reason to their motions. “Your paddles are going the opposite way, if you talk to each other and say what side you are paddling on you can work together as one. The person in front can’t see the person in back, you need to communicate.” Tips shouted over the wind to the teens. Pleas of getting towed in and asking to stop rowing were shouted back. Understanding met these pleas, but explained the importance of not giving up and how to combat this challenge. After much fighting, the teens took the advice and talked to each other, getting fairly far until exhaustion overtook them. Two kayaks were towed in and we started lunch off talking about our experiences, helpful advice, and what marine life we had seen in the water.
Not a single complaint was heard during lunch. The teens ate and played games on the beach while Maria told history of the area and explained the local wildlife. The teens were even happy to get back into the kayaks and paddle back to where we had started. The best part of the day for both instructors was seeing one of the groups that had been towed in, working together as a team and making real headway! As we were paddling back, we heard, “Right! Left! Right! Left!” When we looked up ahead, it was the group of teens that had been towed in. The teen in the front of the kayak had taken the initiative to be the leader and direct their stroke pattern to their partner to get them back to shore. After all that work, it was nice to see them get something in return. They worked their way up to the front of the group and waited to be allowed onto shore. Looks like the old quote is true, “Success is connected with action. Successful people keep moving. They make mistakes, but they don’t quit. Anyone who has never made a mistake, has never tried anything new.” Here-here.