Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Surf’s up, and they're rolling in!

Many of my growing up years were spent a short distance from Lake Ontario, and I always thought of it as, well, a lake, albeit a big lake. Don’t get me wrong, lakes are wonderful. We spent many years enjoying a small lake up in the Madawaska Valley – swimming, boating, water-skiing, sailing, snorkelling, building bonfires on the beach, setting marshmallows on fire, listening to the Beach Boys and Wolfman Jack, and just generally chillin’ out in an early "Sixties" kind of way. (Meaning, that although the potential was always there, we didn’t get into too much trouble!) Sure, lakes are awesome. But they weren’t the ocean. Living in southern Ontario seemed a long way from the mighty Pacific or the Atlantic Oceans. And besides, lakes didn’t have tides, salt water, whales, octopus, seals, starfish, dolphins, sharks, ocean liners, “ex-navy frogman” Mike Nelson (TV's Sea Hunt), or bioluminescence. When we were at the lake, no one could ever say “and if you keep on paddling, you'll get to Hawaii”! (Although with a little time and good weather, we could have paddled over to Niagara Falls, New York). As large as Lake Ontario is, it’s a lake. You could even call it an "inland sea". But it’s not an ocean.

Yesterday we took my mother-in-law for a drive down to a Toronto park on the lake shore. The waves were rolling in. I instantly thought of my kayak, which, according to our eTrex Vista, was safely “racked” exactly 3394 kilometres to the west – as the crow flies. Too bad. This would have been fun - big time! Surfing the incoming waves with the dramatic Toronto skyline as a backdrop? The skyline is rather special because it features the third tallest (thanks a lot Dubai!) free standing structure in the world – the CN Tower. Of course there would be two problems. First of all, the “beach” is made up of unforgiving chunks of concrete, placed there, presumably to prevent erosion. Not much fun for launching or landing. Second, my surf-landing skills are, at best, elementary. (Some would argue less than elementary but what do they know?!) And besides, even the most expert surf-landing would pretty much come apart (literally) on the broken concrete!

The point is, in that moment of time, the lake before me was every bit as exciting as the ocean back home. It was different, but if I’d had my kayak and paddle, a dry suit, AND a high-quality crash helmet it would have been pretty hard to resist the temptation to get out there in the waves.

Life’s a bit like that. We can get stuck on what we feel is authentic, or on what we’ve always understood to be the way things are, or on what we’ve grown comfortable with in our living. We can be reluctant to see the familiar in a fresh light. We resist doing things in new ways because, well, we’ve never done it that way before. (Example: In the frequent rudder vs skeg “discussions”, ever noticed that often the respective proponents have only ever tried one of the two devices? As for me, I would enthusiastically argue that a rudder is much more useful...but, admittedly, I’ve never tried a skeg. Sigh. Point taken?). We even place limitations on ourselves. Ever heard anyone say, “I could never do that!”? Limiting our expectations with respect to ourselves, others, the present, the future (or even lakes for that matter!), serves only to limit our experiences and therefore our opportunities. Life seems way too short for that.

So when is a lake not a lake? When you are open to discovering that it may have some unexpected and tantalizing surprises in store for you! Surf was up and those bad boys were rollin’!

Catch a wave...where you might not expect to find it!


Image: "Surf City "- Lake Ontario, the Toronto skyline with the CN Tower to the right of centre.


  1. You should have just gone and rented a small boat and had some fun surfing. Playing in the waves always brings laughter and a good time.Lakes have their purpose...they are great for swimming in...the ocean brings excitment in its waves but also seaweed to wrap around your legs and an awful salty taste...think we need a bit of both.

  2. Right on, L, thanks for that. Totally agree. We'll see you soon.

  3. Enjoyed that! Check out Lake Superior - another "inland sea".


  4. Good point! And a true destination for serious sea kayaking in some challenging waters! Thanks Gillian.