Roll over!

November 5, 1999Smith Center Pool9:32 p.m.

The scene was tense. I walked up to the Smith Center swimming pool to find women – lots of women – and a bunch of guys, decked out in swimsuits and looking a little out of their element in sea kayaks. Instructor Tom, the energetic outdoor adventurer who would be teaching us all sorts of kayaking tricks that night, told me to get a skirt and join the fun.

Just as I began to question what exactly I had signed up for I realized the rubber garments were intended to keep water out of our boats, not make some modern-day political statement. Reassured, I jumped in my boat and joined a group of freshman girls from HOVA.

Sera Janson, president of Campus Outdoor Recreation Enthusiasts, watched over the proceedings, smiling widely at the sight of GW history in the making: the first-ever kayak rolling event in the Smith Center pool. She spent a year planning instructional time with experts from Calleva Outdoors and was excited to use her new title of president to teach kayaking to potential paddlers.

My first instructor, Andre, taught me some important boating fundamentals, such as kissing the deck and popping the skirt. A little nervous that Andre was making up his own kayaking terminology, I eased my way out of the group and into a more serious crowd. My new instructor, Tom, one of those gung-ho, outdoor, kill-you-with-optimism types, befriended me immediately. After I got accustomed to being called Ross, Tom and I hit it off. He taught me the craft of kayak rolling, and scared me a little too. Tom really enjoyed having students roll their boats over and use his patented hip snap to barely escape drowning.

All the groups were learning to steer their boats through the foreboding Smith Center waters, but most were content to practice different hip-snapping methods: some used oars to bring themselves to the surface, while more creative students used kick boards or the bow of a friend’s boat.

The instructors from Calleva Outdoors were a lively bunch. They managed to make the thought of kayaking in a swimming pool an exciting one for the most experienced or amateur boatsman.

As I filed out of the swimming pool dragging my boat behind me, I concluded that a Friday night spent paddling around a pool isn’t as lame as one would think. Perhaps I will show up for the next two kayaking sessions – same time, same place.

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