The non-swimming kayaker

I can not swim!

I am afraid of water!

I am even more fearful of drowning!

I knew this the moment my mother tried washing my hair in the bath tub as a child. The water was streaming fast but it was hard to run.  I tried it but my mother was holding me tightly so I wouldn’t fall in the tub. I remember putting up a fight with her, but lost; It’s hard fighting when you have shampoo in your eyes; water in your mouth and nose from crying; and a strong Jamaican mother.

Swim lessons at the YMCA didn’t help much. Without a flotation device I couldn’t get my arms and legs to do what other kids were doing, swim. Nor did my older brother’s attempt to teach me how to swim at my uncle’s house in Florida help.  Growing up in Jamaica, my siblings learned how to swim by being thrown in a body of water.  But when this was done to me one summer in Florida, I nearly drowned! Let’s just say I won’t try the “sink or swim” test with my future children. Sadly, I’m not alone.

According to USA Swimming, 70% of African-American children cannot swim, compared with nearly 60% for Hispanic children and 42% for white children. So in an effort to get over my fear, this non-swimmer decided to go kayaking at Pactola Lake in South Dakota.

I obviously survived because I’m able to write this blog post.

With my life jacket on and the aide of my friend Justin — who is a 12-year kayaker and member of the Black Hills Paddlers — I was ready to get my feet wet.  Not, literally, that wouldn’t be a good thing!

At times I thought, “what the heck am I doing!”  but for the most part, I had a blast! There’s nothing like viewing the open-water in a kayak: the fresh air, the sounds of flies soaring, the songs of birds, the movement of water and the many things about nature we take for granted daily.

There was no turning back because I came, I paddled and I conquered!


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