In paddling, as in life, the more we know, the more we realize we don’t know. Kayak instructor Ginni Callahan tells us how to harness this mystery.
The purpose of learning is to arrive at a state of ignorance. It’s a tenant of modern science. So why would you throw away good cash on paddlesport instruction?
So you can learn the excuses.
- Blame it on the wind.
- Blame it on the equipment
- Blame it on the other person (only applies in a tandem)
Look again. In the excuse is the nugget of understanding. At least awareness. It’s obvious the wind is making it harder to paddle. But why is it hard to turn upwind from a standstill? Why is it easier to turn upwind once you have forward momentum? Why is it easier to turn upwind with a bow rudder than a stern rudder?
If you paddle, you are learning. Fast, slow, solo, intentional or otherwise. Relish the quest and the process!
“…the purpose of science – and indeed all learning – is to arrive at a state of ignorance, but an ignorance that is aware of itself.” So declares science & nature writer Chet Raymo (his italics).
If we could ever learn all there is to know about boat design, for example, there wouldn’t be so many options out there, nor constant innovation. If we could ever learn all there is to know about the physics and physiology of paddling, there would only be one right way to paddle. Or learn. What if there was just one way to learn? In a nutshell, life would be boring.
To paraphrase the famous kayaker Einstein, The more we know, the more we realize we don’t know.
Why think about paddling? Why pursue learning? Why contemplate the stars at night on a camping trip? Why dream about the Blue Spaces on maps, charts, and globes? Why pray or meditate?
There is a Mystery that is bigger than we are, and it touches everything. Name it what you will. You’ve experienced it. Reverence for the breaking wave. Joy in the graceful spin of a bow rudder. Rush of an osprey diving for a fish. Temptation of the next bend. Why? Paddling is a portal into the Mystery.
If you paddle, you are learning. Fast, slow, solo, intentional or otherwise. Relish the quest and the process! Whether learning is from one’s own experience, or from the experience of a friend, or from the experiences of hundreds of paddlers condensed into a system of learning and conveyed through a certified coach/instructor/mentor; learning is exhilarating. Learning is also humbling.
“The more we learn about the world, and the deeper our learning, the more conscious, specific, and articulate will be our knowledge of what we do know, our knowledge of our ignorance.” –Karl Popper, 20th century philosopher
We don’t really unlearn anything, we just gain perspective. Peel back a layer of the Mystery like an onion to find that the next layer is, somehow, even bigger.
Learning is grounding, in the details of technique, planning, wind, currents, fitness, outfitting.
Learning is a launch pad. So grab your paddle. Where in the Blue do you want to go, Space Traveler?