Paddling — like most anything worth doing — is worth doing badly, in pairs, and every chance you get. You probably can’t paddle too much, but here are some signs you’re a few strokes past moderation.
1. There are more boats at your house than people. We have four, but they’re really different. Two are sit-in fishing kayaks, one is a fiberglass canoe, and then there’s the dugout canoe I brought back from Siquijor in the Philippines.
2. At least once a day you say something like, “There’s this sweet little stretch of water…”
3. You plan a paddle trip while you’re on a paddle trip.
4. Your rear end has calluses but no feeling.
5. Your boat has more miles than your vehicle.
6. The first invitation you extend isn’t for dinner or drinks — it’s an epic day of paddling. “We’ll leave the house at 3am, drive to the coast, launch at daylight, paddle and fish until about dark, grab a beer and an oyster poboy, and head back home. It’ll be great.”
7. A “quickie before work” usually involves a stream.
8. The dings on your hull remind you of a particular stretch of water.
9. Your physique is a little off. You’re jacked and tanned up top, but your bottom half is pasty and frail.
10. Every online ad you see is from ACK.com.
11. When you’re having trouble sleeping, all you have to do is think on the sound of a paddle slipping through the water.
12. You have enough gear to outfit at least three friends. “Na, just come over. I got you.”
13. You shake your head at the guys in boats with motors — even when you’re eight miles from your launch and still chasing birds.
14. Friends constantly ask you for gear recommendations — and you secretly hate gear lists.
15. You don’t bother to stow your gear. Your bag is always packed and waiting by the front door.
16. Strangers call or email to ask your opinion about paddling routes for places on the other side of the state.
17. CFS means something to you other than chronic fatigue syndrome. (CFS is cubic feet per second — the unit of measurement for water in motion. One cubic foot per second = 7.4805 gallons flowing by a particular point in one second.)
18. A boat is strapped on your vehicle at all times, and a life jacket and paddle are inside.
19. You go to business meetings in your boat shoes.
20. You get river alerts from USGS Water Alert via email or text. Check it out.
21. You take — and schedule — business calls from your boat.
22. Without thinking, you stand up and float backwards through the riffles while taking photographs. Nine out of ten times it goes well, but you’re completely baffled the one time you fall.
23. When you close your eyes, you see GPS coordinates, topo maps, and nautical charts.
24. DD MM SS, DD MM.MMMM, and DD.DDDD mean something to you.
25. Your social life depends on paddle weather.
26. You think 40mph winds, rain, and freezing temperatures are okay paddle weather. That’s why God made waterproof gear and wool.
27. You hold up traffic to scope out flooded ditches and other sweet paddle spots.
28. You secretly believe being a bad paddler is a character flaw.
Shane’s new book Paddling Texas is available for pre-order. See more at PaddlingTexas.com.