Dating a Paddler…

dating a paddler article

BAbi McIntosh (IG @AbiMack )

About a year ago I started dating a man…

Our first conversations were about family, work, yoga, food, kettlebells, and wine. He kayaks. Oh “me too!” I thought. As in, I know how to sit down in a boat and get it across a lake. I had even grown up taking family canoe trips down creeks in Indiana sooooo clearly I was experienced. I casually flipped through his Instagram one day and realized I may not understand how a kayak is used at all. Speeding past rocks, gracefully navigating massive rapids, careening over waterfalls. Oh. Ok. He brought me to Great Falls for the first time. The cold effervescent air took my breath away. Raising my voice above the sound of the fray, “you do this in a boat?!” And so it began. I’ll just say, the activity is sexy, the outfit isn’t. A skirt, a helmet, sometimes with a go pro attached atop- a sexy man starts to quickly resemble a Teletubby. And the smell. Wow. There is something about sweat and river water that when combined smells like a cat’s litter box, a 2 month old gym bag, and a farm on a summer’s day. It will ruin cars and romance quickly. If Astral decides they can make a shoe that cannot stink, boaters’ girlfriends will line up for days like it’s biggest Black Friday sale ever.

The body underneath the gear and the smell though, well, that will keep you coming back for more. When fitness magazines talk about the v-taper, they are referring to paddlers. Yummy strong shoulders, lats you want to nibble, triceps for days, calloused hands, and a core that could only be developed twisting and turning through rapids. Generally the personality that goes with a whitewater paddler is fun-loving and adventurous, with a passion for nature and a strong sense of community. I’ve never seen a ‘brotherhood’ quite like it. A few notes: So when you are dating a man and he finds out that you don’t kayak but you know how to drive a car, beware. You are now a shuttle bunny. BUT, this will take you to the most beautiful places, you will be able to breathe and bike and hike amidst nature in a way you never experienced before. It’s kind of the perfect way for couples to experience time apart while supporting each other’s passions.

I love to hike along beautiful rivers while he paddles them. Win/win. Kisses at the put-in and finding creative ways to warm a cold body at the takeout can make for a mutually wonderful day too. The first time I shuttled, I dropped him off and said a typical midwestern, “be careful” and realized this is not appropriate for the man I am dating or the activity he is about to embark on. “Have fun” is much better.

Romance: immediately following a passionate romp, my waterman would gaze lovingly into my eyes and I would say, “darling what are you thinking about?” Of course this question is always asked with the hope of a self-serving reply. Insert any of the following, “you are so flexible, beautiful, sexy” etc. It is a hard blow to the ego when his intense blue eyes gaze lovingly into yours and in a post-coital confession he admits, “kayaking. I was thinking about kayaking.”

Gear: when preparing for a trip, I would throw one overnight bag in the van. Duffles the size of a body bag would suddenly appear filled with gear for a ‘minimalist’ sport. Dry suits, mits, fleece union suit, paddles, helmets, go pros, life jackets, shoes, etc. And you only need to bring 3 boats on this trip? Ok perfect. I will never be accused of over packing again. A special word about rocks: at the take out you will always hear someone say, “you know that one rock at some-rapid-that-sounds-like-it-was-named-by-a-12-year-old-with-ADHD.” Conversations about rocks may have never been your idea of dinner party dialog, but did you ever imagine that you’d be enjoying a dinner party with a bunch of muscly, sweaty, half-naked men, with endorphins pumping in a beautiful gorge? No? Well then endure the conversation about rocks. It’s worth it.

In this past year, adventuring with this man and his red boat, I have seen the most beautiful landscapes, met the most wild and kind people, and found missing pieces of myself along the river bank. Date a boater and be ready for a life of romance and adventure like you never imagined.