Advice From the Hammock - Paddle Everything!

We drove back to New York the weekend after Christmas to see my folks. We packed our bags (a fully loaded duffel, diaper bag, and stroller for Brooklyn, and a single, shared suitcase for Ashley and I), I played a few last precious Christmas songs before they became socially unacceptable for the next 11 months, and headed west on I-90. All along the interstate- beneath bridges, alongside guardrails, or behind recently bared trees- patches of water reflected the early morning winter light. Sometimes green road signs gave names to the rivers we drove over, but more often than not, ponds, marshes, and creeks passed by unnamed, at least to us.

Each time we passed one,  I couldn't help but imagine myself on a board or kayak, exploring the the beauty of each spot, so easily overlooked, but so important to its surrounding community, manmade or otherwise. Maybe I’d explore the furthest reaches, upstream over rocks and ripples to the source, or downstream between banks and around bends on its journey the sea. Or maybe I’d just float, noticing the way the wind seemed to catch on certain sections of open water, while others lay smooth in the shelter of pines.

This month’s tip is: paddle everything, even if only in your mind. There is no body of water too small, too unnoticed, or too unnamed, to be unworthy of discovery. Paddling a body of water allows it to be explored in a way that brings life and importance to it. We’re now in an age where the march of progress often takes precedence over the conservation of nature, and it’s often the smallest bodies of water that are the most vulnerable. Everytime we introduce new customers to paddling, we have in mind Baba Dioum’s idea that “In the end we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught." When we explore local waterways, no matter the size, it becomes a self-taught journey that, through better understanding, we learn to love, and desire to conserve.

And so the secondary tip is to not just paddle every thing, but to paddle every time. For us, this means we don’t put our paddles away once the summer heat transitions to the cool chill of fall or the snowy days of winter. We keep paddling throughout the year, and encourage others to try it, in part, because we believe it can help create a better understanding, a stronger appreciation, and greater desire to protect waterways everywhere, from the smallest ponds to the biggest oceans.

Aaron Mearns