“All kayaks are not created equal. There are many different designs, and they have different properties,” explains Magne Steiro, and our instructor continues:
“A slim kayak with a V-shaped bottom is built for speed but lacks stability. A U-shaped kayak is more stable but doesn’t glide as well through the water. With vertical sides, the kayak is prone to tipping if you have too much weight; sides that tilt outward are more stable, offering a calmer ride.”
With 25 years’ experience, Steiro know what he is talking about. As one of Helgeland’s kayaking pioneers, he eagerly shares his knowledge interspersed with good stories. Gradually all the participants relax.
“A kayak should be low in the water, with a fairly flat aft deck that has deck ropes that can be easily gripped from the water. Those small details can be decisive if you have to rescue a friend or yourself.”
“Not everyone who goes kayaking ends up overboard. The goal is of course to avoid that, but if an accident does happen, it’s vital that you know how to get back into your kayak.”
That’s the key topic on the first day of our kayaking course. Wearing dry-suits and life vests, gripping our paddles, and equipped with pump and sponge, we carefully get into our kayaks and head out beyond Nesna’s harbour. There we practice various manoeuvring techniques – turning, stopping, moving sideways, and high and low support paddling. The instructor has us trying to relax, and striving to let our body and our kayak follow the natural motion of the sea.
“When you’re relaxed, you will respond better to the moving sea, and your kayaking experience will be all the better for it.”
Then the moment of truth arrived – and we found ourselves in deep water. Our other instructor, Rune Steiro, showed how to perform a rescue. After capsizing the kayak, Magne helped us turn it upright and pull Rune safely on board. It looked easy enough, but then again things usually do when people know what they are doing. Actually, it proved easy in practice as well; provided we stayed calm and kept our centre of gravity low. I must admit that I had been quite anxious about suddenly finding myself trapped underwater. The instruction and these successful exercises showed me that my fear was baseless. Afterwards I think we all felt quite calm and self-confident, and looked forward to tomorrow’s joint kayaking excursion.
On the second day we took a four-kilometre kayaking trip to Litlehaug at Hugla, in gorgeous weather. We saw seabirds up close, and it was fascinating gliding through seaweed and shallows. We focused on finding a good rhythm, using our paddle to make steady even progress. The gentle waves, the other boats and the ships didn’t present any problems. For me it felt quite novel to propel myself with my arms, back and tummy muscles. When you’re cycling, skiing or hiking, of course you mostly use your legs.
Our kayaking journey went very well. After about an hour and a half we arrived at Litlehaug. Elin Fagervik greeted us with steaming moose stew and mashed potatoes, which she served in a refurbished and charming boathouse. The food was wonderful, as was the ambience. Elin gave us a tour of the farm and herb garden that she and her husband run, a fresh attraction for tourists and locals alike. Satisfied in every way, we got back in our kayaks for the uneventful return journey to Nesna – no one fell into the water. Arriving at the harbour we could once again stretch our legs, where every participant received an NPF Wet Card (from the Norwegian Kayaking and Canoeing Association) that proves we were now fairly proficient in a kayak.
Kayaking is indeed an exciting, tranquil and immensely rewarding activity, at least with the sea calm as a mirror, as it had been today. I am sure it is more demanding when we are challenged by wind and waves. Time will tell.
Written by Halvor Hilmersen, a journalist who has long been eager to go kayaking – and now it’s a dream achieved.