Paddling on a mirror smooth sea.

She asks me while looking at me expectantly….

‘Well, uh, in front, next to or just behind him….’.I answer a bit taken off guard by this sudden question.

She didn’t really say much to this. And focused her attention on the ongoing conversation between Alexander and her husband about kayaking big waves. But I could see her thinking. I would love to know what is going on in her head.

Where was she expecting me to be? 

  • Towing my kayak on a trolly over the road and getting in the kayak again on the other side of the peninsula? That would really be a tough job. 
  • Or putting the kayak on the roof of the car and driving to the other side and only paddle the ‘safe’ waters? 
  • Does she think women can not paddle 4-meter waves because they are physically unable to do that? 
  • Or does she think she can’t/won’t do that because it is too scary and dangerous? Are 4 meters swell waves something that goes too far out of the comfort zone for women or is it just a thought?

Could be something totally different, I don’t know because I didn’t ask her. 

Note to self, next time, ask!!

In the meantime, I do some soul searching and ask myself, should I be offended by the remark? Rationally, as an independent woman who earns her own money, makes her own decisions, and is comfortable doing things on her own, I should! 

But do I feel offended? Or do I feel compassion towards her for underestimating herself or women in general? 

Funny enough, I don’t feel offended, I don’t feel I have to convince this well-groomed lady with long polished purple fingernails and carefully styled blond hair that women can paddle in big waves and go round Stoer point. 

I actually feel a lot of benefit from the simple lifestyle of wild camping, healthy food, and paddling the sea to get from one beach to another. Being so close to nature relaxes my mind and body, especially in big waves. All cortisol levels get back to normal and I have no more racing thoughts and I lose weight in the process! Isn’t that what all women are looking for on a holiday?

Charlotte Gannet next to the tent
Wild camping.

But when I tell someone about my kayaking holidays with all its benefits, I get asked ‘Is that not dangerous?’ or ‘Aren’t you ever scared?’ Alexander never gets that question! People react to him with ‘Awesome!’ after the exact same story. And sometimes I get that ‘you-poor-thing’ look like they feel sorry for me that I have to go on a holiday like that.

After a bit of research and looking back on my own experience, I come across a lot of stories of women who are underestimated in outdoor pursuits. While in fact, women are better on long endurance trips because we use energy more efficiently than men. I know that is true, I can get by without cookies or not catching fish. But Alexander really needs to munch on half a pack of ginger nuts daily and gets grumpy when we are not catching mackerel. 

Fishing from the kayak.

And women have better judgment in the wilderness, we don’t overestimate our abilities and crash halfway during a challenging trip. And that is true too, for Alex, any weather is good weather for a paddle. When I don’t think I can’t handle the sea state or feel not up to it, I refuse to go and put my foot down. But that doesn’t happen often anymore. After 19 years of kayaking, I’m a very experienced sea kayaker. I can handle a lot of waves and my thoughts about them. 

I must admit, I don’t look Instagram-able or smell socially acceptable anymore after 2 weeks of paddling. My hair does look a mess after being stuck under a hat for days and a daily salt wash. My hands have callus formations so bad my fleece sweater sticks to them. And my nails….let’s not talk about my nails. 

But I haven’t turned into a butch girl on the way. I’m still a nice and friendly woman with perhaps a bit more muscle than the average girl.

I just hope that this lady thinks back on our meeting tonight and I hope I have opened a whole new world of possibilities for her, inspired and empowered her to get more adventurous outside! If not her, perhaps her daughter…

Me in frond of a standing stone in the ring of Brodgar.

Charlotte Gannet

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