by Bob Wickizer

Plain Talk
Rev. Bob Wickizer
Amos 6:1-7; Psalm 146:4-9; 1 Timothy 6:11-19; Luke 16:19-31
30 September 2001

Years ago I took an outdoors class one spring learning to handle a kayak. Although as a child I had spent many summers running my father's ancient wood frame and canvas kayak through Ozark streams I wanted to learn more about the sport and how to handle "bigger water" as the boaters refer to class III, IV and V whitewater. Our instructor was a gentle and wise man with long flowing brown hair. The first morning he told us with a smile to go out in the river with our boats and just play for a few minutes. He knew full well that we wouldn't be able to handle the spring current and one by one we all ended beached at some low water about three hundred yards downstream.

Now stuck on the shoals we waited as our instructor paddled downstream to meet us. Just getting upstream to where we started looked like an impossible challenge but I'll never forget the next words our instructor told us. "We're going to start with the most difficult moves first" he said. Later he told us that learning the most difficult strokes first would tend to balance against the easier maneuvers so that when we got into difficult situations we could rely upon our full repertoire of maneuvers rather than depend only on those strokes we could do easily.

So the first stroke he taught us was the bracing stroke. A kayak is inherently unstable. In technical terms its center of gravity is located above its major axis of rotation so that when not in motion a kayak will naturally tend to turn upside down. And when you feel yourself start to turn over in a kayak the bracing stroke fights every instinct in your body. Your natural tendency when turning over is to right your own body but in a kayak when you try that, the bottom of the boat literally slides out from under you and causes you to tip even faster. All of this happens in an instant so you don't have any time to think - ...

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