I was on my way home by bike from the kayak club, and in one of those moments when I would otherwise have been stressed and angry about annoying experiences in traffic, I realized that I was really happy.
My joy was in two parts: one part came from the training itself, the feeling of having used my body in a good way and the well-being of healthy tiredness. The other part of my joy came from being on the water – from the experience of nature, of being close to the water and the sea.
The wind was easterly, 7 to 8 meters per second, and I had been outside the harbour, out at Øresund, with the intention of enjoying the waves. The waves were a good size, about half a head higher than I when the kayak was between the waves. Waves of that size usually invite to surf them but, typical for the area outside Trekroner, they were too irregular and came from several directions. So, I settled for just paddling in them and enjoyed the feeling of how well my kayak behaves in such conditions.
My kayak is an Anas Acuta.
I bought it used, and I have met or know all the people who have owned it before me. The person who bought it new many years ago is Niels who nowadays helps me with my Greenland roll training. It is a nice feeling, knowing the kayak’s former life.
The more I use it, the more I like it and the characteristics it has: how easily it handles, how it reacts to steering and edging, and especially how it behaves in waves, surf and other rough conditions.
I had to tinker with it a bit: The original Valley seat had a shape that was like sitting with your ass in a hole, but after I changed the angle of the seat and foamed it up a bit at the sides, I’m comfortable, and along with its ocean cockpit, I have good contact with the kayak whether in waves or when rolling.
Another day, here in early spring, I stood on the quay at the club, mesmerized by the sunshine and how the fog came rolling past behind the trees at Christiania, half hiding Amager Bakke. It was also an easterly wind this day, but I didn’t want to go out to sea – I wanted to roll down into it.
The water was still bloody cold, to put it in plain English, and I had entrenched myself against the cold with lots of neoprene and wool. However, my face was unprotected and the cold bit into my skin, and it took four or five rolls before I could concentrate on anything else: for example, the rolls themselves and whether I was doing them correctly.
It’s alluring, the water.
Here in early spring, the water is usually clear as glass and you can look far down. Even in places where it is several meters deep, I can easily see the details on the bottom in calm weather. Algae and seaweed do not yet cover everything down there. It is both strange and wonderful – and disturbing.
Strange and wonderful because it is a hidden world that reveals itself. The secret places where fish and their fry svim about, where seals hunt, where mussels grow and conks and starfish crawl. There are big and small stones, empty shells, nondescript things covered in barnacles and mussels, and there is dirt and junk.
And it’s the dirt and junk that makes it disturbing, because there’s a lot of it – and I think there’s more and more every year. Many of the things down there are almost unrecognizable, half buried in mud, covered in barnacles and sprouting algae, turned into strange shapes of shady green. Among them are cans, plastic, sunglasses, bicycles, old furniture and maybe an old boat.
Later in the year, it will all be covered in the greenery that is rising up as the light and warmth increases.
Herons in Copenhagen
A sentinel stands motionless in the shallow water by the shore – ready to impale any small fish that should venture past with its pointed beak.
Herons are everywhere in Copenhagen where there is water. The story goes (I do not know if it is true) that the then director of the Zoo, Bent Jørgensen, released them back in the 80s so they had all of Copenhagen to frolic in.
Whether it’s true or not, it’s common to see those big birds all over the city.
Meditation at the Great Sea
I realize that more and more I go out at the great sea alone. I must emphasize that I have nothing against being with others – I enjoy being on a trip with like-minded people. However, it is also an immersive experience I seek: the rhythm of the paddle strokes and of my body, the movement of the kayak in the water; when the water is mirror-like or deep blue with luminous white, foam on the tops of the waves; to sit and stare into the depths, looking towards the alluring line of the horizon.
“The great sea moves me, sets me adrift.
It moves me like algae on stones in running brook water.
The vault of heaven moves me.
Mighty weather storms through my soul.
It carries me with it.
Trembling with joy.”