If in doubt, paddle out.
This is a little pearl of wisdom given to me by my surfer brother a few years ago, during a stressful time. According to surfer slang, to “paddle out” means to get out of the shallows, to paddle towards deeper waters, trust your abilities and take a risk. Mostly because it rhymes but also because it resonates so well (is it really an adventure if it doesn’t push you out of your comfort zone, even just a little?), this pearl has stuck with me since.
It’s also the first thing that crossed my mind as I jumped into the red and black kayak, with my best friend seated up front, ready to be pushed into the icy cold waters of the Atlantic. For months I’ve watched as others have done the same thing, paddling out through Cape Town’s Three Anchor Bay towards Robben Island (nothing but a speck in the distance), over kelp forests, and continuing in a direction of their choice on that seemingly endless expanse of blue.
Initially, this appeared like too daunting a morning adventure – I love the ocean, but also fear it (or respect its powerful and unpredictable force, it could go both ways) and, while I do have quite a bit of experience with paddling, I’ve only ever done so in rivers. Also, thanks to more recent events, I was starting to have vague recollections of nightmares of guided kayak tours past (you can read all about the almost-disaster at Storms River here).
But, that all being said, the desire to experience the city by sea overrode any of these worries. There was only one thing to do – book a kayaking tour, take a deep breath and paddle out into the ocean in a shiny red and black kayak.
And I’m so glad I did. We’d booked a sunrise guided tour with Kaskazi Kayaks, which began in Three Anchor Bay. After being pushed into the water and set on our way, we paddled about 200m out, at which point the bay widens into the Atlantic, and bobbed above the gentle waves while we waited for the rest of the group to gather. And so began two hours of me giggling like a child and telling Leila (my oldest friend and possibly one of my most favourite humans) how excited I was. This seems to be a thing that I do, telling people that I’m having THE BEST TIME EVER, as if I wasn’t making it obvious enough with my constant shrieks (OMG dolphins, let’s GO!), endless laughter, wild paddling, bouncing up and down and just general inability to keep it together.
Anyway. It really was that fun, and the most special vantage point from which to watch the city of Cape Town come alive. I live in a truly beautiful city, where bustling metropolitan and soul-soothing natural wonders merge at numerous points. It seems to be common practise here to immerse oneself in nature to gain some perspective on our busy city lives (for example, when you stand on top of Table Mountain, and look down on the miniature society down below, it’s hard not to feel that one’s daily problems are entirely insignificant), and a kayaking excursion out at sea provides another – even more otherworldly – opportunity to do so.
We glided through the water and bobbed up and over some waves, following the tour guides as they leads us past the RMS Athens shipwreck and towards Granger Bay. Here, we were afforded a panoramic view of Cape Town, her three iconic peaks (Devil’s Peak, Table Mountain and Lions’ Head) lined up in a row, with the stadium at the base of Signal Hill. Leila (obsessed with history) remarked how the first settlers’ jaws must have dropped at the unfathomable sight of Table Mountain and her surrounding peaks. These colossal rock formations appear to rise straight from the ocean. And, much like looking down on Cape Town from the mountains, to observe the city from the removed position of the ocean, shed a peaceful light on the stresses of daily life (what is traffic even?).
Not only did our kayak out at sea offer a different perspective of Cape Town, but it also stood out as an alternative way of experiencing the ocean. It’s no secret that the temperature of the Atlantic is a force to be reckoned with all of its own – even after paddling, I was shivering cold to the bone by the time we returned to the shore, and had to waddle back to my car with numb feet and hands stiffened like claws as if I was still clutching the paddle – and swimming isn’t always the most pleasant way of feeling close to the salty goodness of the sea. But, when you’re in a kayak, you sit only slightly above the clear blue water. I looked down to see in fine detail the tiny, pink-flecked jelly fish that floated by every now and then, and we were almost eye to eye with the Heaviside dolphins and African Penguins that paid us a visit during the trip. I would never have seen such things from the beach.
From the perspective of the sea, I was afforded a different view of the city, and a closer experience of the ocean – and all its strange creatures – that I love so much.
I hope you enjoyed this post! Until next time. xx