For the Stó:lo people Cultus Lake has always been a sacred place for spirit quests. The word cultus means “without purpose”, “free” or “simply nothing” and originates from Chinook Jargon, the early language of trade in the Pacific Northwest. According to folklore the lake is bottomless and there are supernatural monsters living in it. But that hasn’t stopped the Water Warriors for bringing their dragon boats out every week.
Yesterday I went for my weekly 1-2 hour paddle with the Water Warriors in our dragon boat on Cultus Lake. It’s only 6 miles out of Chilliwack so it’s very easy for me to reach it in about an hour and some minutes by bicycle.
This was my fourth or fifth training session on the 40 foot boat which holds about 20 women and each time we practice on the fine points of paddling this vessel, I am immensely entertained.
When I signed up for the summer season, nowhere did I see in the documents that we would have some crack comedians on board as well. Pam, our head coach, has a very graphic way of describing how to move our bodies quickly and efficiently to give the boat optimum speed. Pam devoted a lot of time last Monday showing us how the arm that holds the handle part of the paddle needs to be rounded as if we are dancing with a lover. The other arm, positioned at the bottom of the handle, needs to stretch forward as if it’s reaching out persistently to a martini that’s just out of reach.
Once you’ve grabbed that martini, you “hinge” your torso back to an upright position while facing forward and place both butt cheeks back on the thwart. No sooner have you arrived at this position, than you hinge back up, keeping the arms in their position so that only the hips are driving you up and down.
When you’ve pushed back the water, the top of the paddle, the handle part, is supposed to be at the same level as your nipples. Of course, with me being tall, my paddle top stops at my neck, and this is NOT where those nipples are located. Other paddlers expressed the same observation regarding their anatomy.
Paddling with the Water Warriors must be what summer camp was like at fourteen. I can’t think of any more fun than striving to connect our bodies with our minds together with this sisterhood of paddlers. Each of their life stories is so special, Hollywood directors would be beating at their door to have the rights to the script.
Pam also had us executing a Round Robin where we had to move clockwise around the boat every fifteen minutes so she could observe our paddling up close and personal. Pam, ever so graciously pointed out to me that it’s really great that I have such flexibility when I’m hinging down to the point that I could be the star pupil in a yoga class, but I don’t need to have my nose touching the thwart on the dragon boat.
It’s good to be able to laugh at yourself. For a lot of us have forgotten to do this and instead, take ourselves too seriously.
After our two hour paddling session the sun was setting behind the mountains. We headed back to the dock quickly like a horse to his barn. The conversation in the aft area of the boat consisted of when the best time in the day to take glucosamine was and in what quantities. Now, how often do you find yourself in the company of like-minded souls who you can share joint pain remedies with while paddling like mad and contorting your core into repeated hinging motions?
By now I had been “round robinned” to the stern, and wedged into the narrowest area of the boat with my thwart-mate practically suctioned to my left hip. My right butt-cheek was still supposed to pivot on that one centimeter of flesh.
I smiled contentedly in the knowledge that I was getting the best of all worlds: the beauty of nature, a kick-butt workout, a brand new skill, invaluable sisterhood and a great end to an otherwise hectic day.
Here, Kellie and I are feeling high after another fine day out on Cultus Lake with our community of like-minded women. Kellie is a cancer survivor. She usually paddles seated on the thwart immediately ahead of mine. I follow her paddle and she is one mean paddler because she never stops for a break!