Can I kayak while pregnant?

The sounds of doors slamming throughout Hughesville.

The Hughes Brothers just left, most of them running at what amounts – for them – at full speed. Sister Cindy will handle this question all alone.

Listen to your body.

We women know the usual, fully expected consequences of pregnancy: fatigue, hormonal imbalances, a growing appetite, and on. And on. So now, in these precious months, rely on your body’s signals. Listen to them, and obey them.

Begin only with your doctor’s approval.

If your doctor allows you to continue paddling in general, heed every last bit of his advice. I’ll proceed without my brothers’ participation in their largely irrelevant way. I’ll share my own experience on the water while pregnant as a thought-starter if nothing else. We’ll assume that you, as did I, manifest no complications in a low-risk pregnancy.

Then I put away any hint of guilt.

I believe that the best gift I might have given my son Reed were those beliefs, those interests, those talents that are uniquely mine to give. There was a time in my life when I lived to paddle. I traveled with my brothers on river trips all over America. And then, after I married, I took time away from my public-relations business to travel with my husband, as his work took him to places where I just knew a rental kayak waited on me. Reed, I was determined, would soon enough enjoy the watery places of our new life together.

No guilt. None.

Can I kayak while pregnant? Consider the physical nature of the sport.

Some sports demand that you bear your full weight. Not kayaking. I simply sat comfortably in my boat. And brought those practiced, easy movements to bear. As always I had.

Kayaking is safer than bicycling. It creates less stress on your frame than running. Even my yoga practice made me feel unbalanced in a way that kayaking never did.

Take a break when you’re tired. Again, be aware of your body. If you’re heating up, splash some water.

Can I kayak while pregnant? Never yak alone while pregnant.

Always, always yak with your husband or boyfriend, with someone who can rescue you immediately. Effectively. Safely for you and baby. And, in your own behalf, you should be a strong, strong swimmer. With enough personal protective and flotation devices for not two, but three yakkers.

Can I kayak while pregnant? Never yak alone while pregnant. Consider the physical nature of the water.

Beware the rocks. Beware any sort of obstacles in the water that might jostle, much less knock, your abdomen. Be afraid of any water whose speed makes you even the slightest bit nervous.

Listen to the opposition, opposition you respect.

My friend Mary was horrified when she learned of my intention to keep kayaking through multiple months of pregnancy. Her arguments came to this: “But, Cindy, all that twisting. All that movement, that jerking of your hips. And the compression of your belly! And oh my gosh, girl, if you happened to turn over? All that stress as you try to right the boat.”

Mary made her points well. Then I reminded my well-meaning friend that she spoke from the vantage point of one . . . one! . . . kayaking class. I assured her that my years of paddling had refined my movements. Had taught me best practices that flowed like the water itself. No jerking. No straining.

If you choose not to listen to your friends all aghast, have your own reasons for staying on the water. That little human inside you most of all.

Can I kayak while pregnant? Never yak alone while pregnant. Take a kayak built for two.

All the arguments against your enjoyment of your sport diminish in a hurry, if you assure your worried friends that you’ll be safely paddling ahead of the man in your life.

I hope pregnant you enjoy your time in your boat as much as I’ve enjoyed my brothers being completely gone for a while.

Should you take lessons before beginning to kayak?

Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. And yes.

The unique method of propelling a kayak – unlike the oars in a boat or oar in a canoe – seems simple enough. Deceptively simple. So much so that, without a lesson, your first hours on the water in your brand-new thousand-dollar kayak might involve little more than once more going around a perpetual circle.

Breathing is more important than paddling.

Nasty word, “capsize.”

Your lesson from a certified kayaking instructor will go far beyond paddling in a straight line. The very architecture of a kayak invites spillage. Built originally for speed and maneuverability, kayak design has progressed far and wide in the matter of stability.

That said, a beginning kayaker is a prime candidate for being all upside-down in the water, gasping for air from a spill that came just flat out of nowhere.

A lesson. A lesson. A lesson by all means.

What should I know as a beginning kayaker?

These lessons began with the Inuits. Sort of.

The basics of the sport haven’t changed much since those brilliant Alaskan paddlers used their boats to paddle inland seas in search for, first of all, food.

What should I know as a beginning kayaker? Think of the water, not the weather.

Water temperature should be your first and last consideration in the matter of what to wear. While the air temp might suggest shorts and no shirt, the all-important ambience of the water might better suggest a wetsuit. We Hughes Brothers will talk about kayaking gear in another blog coming soon. Since we gave up hardcore bass-fishing with supplies bought over the years – thousands of dollars worth of plastic doodads in our dusty tackleboxes – well, a man has to spend his fishing money somewhere. And we’ll tell you what we think about preparing for the all too not unlikely event of sudden introduction to a watery environment far, far different from the Fourth of July temperature of the air.

What should I know as a beginning kayaker? Wear a life vest.

Actually, you should be wearing what is more appropriately called a buoyancy aid. The big difference here between such an aid and a traditional life vest – more allowable movement about the arms and neck, that critical muscular and operational part of the body where kayaking begins.

Even if you’re an especially strong swimmer, such a device will protect you in that sudden, sudden moment when you’re heels over head in a fast-moving stream at, oh, forty degrees Fahrenheit.

What should I know as a beginning kayaker? Think, think hard about your boat.

Make your first boat as exactly right for you as possible. Consider all the variables: intended use, the water on which you’ll most frequently be paddling, and cost. Cost most certainly as you dip your big toe into our sport.

Think first of a sit-on-top yak: easy to paddle, stable and stable some more, affirmingly stable.

What should I know as a beginning kayaker? Know the basics. Know them well.

Nitty-gritty stuff. You know, how to sit properly, how to paddle efficiently. These fundamental skills, this basic knowledge will serve you over years, hopefully decades, of good times in a boat that is so completely your own, on a lifetime succession of outdoor trips that you cannot, will not ever forget.

Okay, okay. A few of the basics.

In that all-important first lesson on kayaking, on that most meaningful day when a certified instructor takes you down to the water on a righteous morning, you’ll hear again these lifelong lessons.

· Do not slouch in your yak, the living-room comfort of your seat notwithstanding.

· Sit up straight, lower back and butt at a really sharp and accurate ninety degrees.

· Come to know your foot pegs, that daylong source of comfort and strength.

· Point your toes outward on those pegs. Bring your heels inwards.

· Bend your knees out, out to where they contact your boat’s thigh braces.

What should I know as a beginning kayaker? The paddle, the paddle.

Hold your paddle with both hands, distance apart right at the shoulder. Ensure that the concave part of the blades is facing you. As you dip the paddle into the water, this concavity should sweep through. And hence the power of your stroke. Your knuckles – keep them nicely aligned with the blade of the paddle.

What should I know as a beginning kayaker? What to wear while kayaking? What to wear.

Again, build your wardrobe around the temperature of the water. Anticipate worst-case sorts of scenarios. Then double your thinking. Bring along a second set of clothes. Should the worst happen, you’ll be twice grateful. Please note that yet another Hughes Brothers blog article addresses in specific detail the necessities of dress for kayaking in especially cold weather.

Stand by for the really, really critical stuff. Stand by.