5 Quick Lessons For Canoeing (And Life)

Written by: Jorinde Berben
Image credit: Jorinde Berben & Tom Cornille

During our trip to France last week, we spent a few hours canoeing with the kids on a river running underneath a castle. The weather was mostly clear but also very windy. For both kids it was the first time in a canoe, so it was an exciting venture. The trip went pretty much perfectly, though by the end of it our arms felt like pudding. Yet, there were some challenges along the way as well, which were instructive not just for the afternoon in the canoe, but also for the rest of my life outside of it. I want to share 5 of these little lessons with you guys!
So, here goes…

5 lessons I learned from canoeing

  1. Keep your nose facing the wind
    Because of the strong wind blowing against us, any movement sideways meant that the side of the boat caught the wind and the boat started turning and tilting. It became clear, pretty quickly, that in order to keep control of where we were going, it was important to keep the nose of the boat pointing straight into the wind. In many ways, we have to face any adversity in life in this way: head on. It doesn’t mean you can’t go around it, but it’s important to keep looking straight at it, so you know at all times what you’re up against.
  2. Sit it out
    From time to time, there were strong gusts of wind that made it pretty much impossible to know which way to go. It was best to just sit through these and readjust after the wind had slowed down again bit. In life, we can get caught up in storms like this as well. Perhaps it’s a dramatic break-up, or another life event that throws everything in disarray, whatever it is, it’s often wise to take a step back and wait for things to settle down a bit before we react to what’s going on. In the midsts of these gusts it might seem like the situation is hopeless, but the wind will eventually settle. It always does.
  3. If at first you don’t succeed…
    We had to steer our boats underneath a castle that was partially built over the river. Through the passages, the wind blew even stronger than on the river. It was so powerful, that we couldn’t seem to get through it. My daughter and I redoubled our efforts, pointed the nose of the boat as straight as we could and started paddling as fast as we could. We still hit the wall half-way through but we made it eventually.
    I don’t think this lesson needs much explaining…
  4. Stop and retrace when needed
    Often, when canoeing, you can correct your direction by paddling on one side versus the other. But there are times when you’ve just drifted too far off track and you have to paddle backwards for a little bit to get to some open water again. It’s a waste of energy, so you try to avoid it, but sometimes it’s just the only way out of a pickle (or a prickle).
    It feels silly when you have to go backwards, because it feels like you’re admitting you may have made a judgement error. We’re not that keen on admitting to others or even ourselves, that we’ve made a mistake. The thing is, paddling around some more won’t make that wrong suddenly right. Usually it’s best to just recognize the mistake, return on our steps and do it over in the correct way. It’s how we learn. There’s no shame in that.
  5. HAVE FUN!!!
    Biggest lesson ever! I love canoeing. I think I’ve spent a previous life on the water, because it can really feel like home to me. The children, my partner and I had a great time, and for me it was a reminder of the fact that maybe I don’t make nearly enough time for fun.
    The night before I’d written in my diary this interesting question:
    “What would I do if I didn’t have an ego interfering with it?”
    And the answer, for me, was: I’d play more. Without the need to prove myself, the need for recognition for what I did, I would probably have a LOT more fun.

Most of these lessons I need to learn many times over, especially te last one. Writing them down and sharing them with you is one of the ways I do that.
Another reason for sharing these, however, is that I get to add some of these lovely action pics to this post. So without further ado, thank you for reading and you’re welcome! –>

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