What Paddles Do at Night by Al Ching
When you open up your paddle shed, you usually expect to see paddles hanging up with a few in disarray. Yet every so often after a dark and windy night, you’ll find paddles piled up heater-skelter.
Sometimes there will be several groups, with some leaning against a tall, handsome steering blade. The unvarnished paddles with splintered edges will be down on the floor among the rubber bands and bailing buckets.
Why is this? We've all seen this before, but never gave it a second thought. Here is the shocking news. ‘Paddles Party at Night!’ Tales of paddles partying at night is a little known fact. In fact, partying paddles are just as much a part of paddling, as partying paddlers.
Legend has it, that on windy nights when no one's around, a rising wind coming off a black-sea will stir the paddles to life. Each paddle will get up and slowly begin a dance, around and around, faster and faster, whipped into a frenzy by the howling wind.
If you listen carefully you will hear the paddles banging against the doors and crashing against the walls. That’s why a broken T-top or two will sometimes be found in the morning. That is also the reason why a paddle shed is never neat and clean. Even though you may have spent an hour cleaning it a few days before.
They party all night, especially after a hard race.
They do that to release tension after having their heads dipped into the water a thousand times, their tips smashed on the gunnels and their shafts rubbed raw against the canoe.
However, without a doubt, the worst indignity is to have their heads stuffed in the sand and used as a crutch, while their owners talk idly on.
Paddles fear novices!
All paddles have a tremendous fear of novices, especially the straight shaft paddles. Novices are handed a straight shaft without thinking. That's why in the hands of a novice, they will plop and splash so loud and often fly out of their hands, because they want to get away. Now you know.
Like any family, they mourn the lost of a fellow paddle when one is broken in half.
A terrible tragedy it is, especially when it is a young new paddle. The old grizzled paddles can only shake their shafts and acknowledge the senseless lost of a great piece of wood. ‘Never throw a broken paddle back in the shed, it's difficult to party with a dead body on the floor.’
Straight shafts hate double-benders and the opposite is true.
Yes Jane, there is a pecking order in the paddle boxes too! Society is never perfect. The double-benders are always aloof at the top of the class with their beautiful curved, tapered shafts.
Hi-tech and fine-grained; they tend to party in a conservative manner so as not to ding themselves. In the morning you'll find them hanging in neat rows, while the rest of the gang will be crashed out everywhere.
The straight shafts are the worker bees of the lot. Everyone uses them to save their double-bends from wear and tear, which really irks the paddling community and has caused paddle-riots in the past. Remember the big chip missing from your nice paddle when you left it in the shed? Paddle-riot.
Steering paddle are the studs of the pile.
Steering paddles are looked upon as the dashing leaders of the pile, because they are the only ones that can steer a canoe, while the others just mindlessly plow water.
However their lives are short lived, because their shafts fracture from carrying a daily strain on turns and waves. Everyday they live on the edge and every night they party the heartiest of all. Their motto is, ‘Party tonight for tomorrow we may crack up’.
Steering paddles have long, strong shafts built for rugged durability, what else is there to say about their popularity? They have a devil may care attitude and given half the chance will always try to escape from the paddle shed. That is why a good steering paddle is hard to find in the shed.
Every once in a while someone will report a missing paddle, thinking it was left behind or worst yet stolen. There have been documented reports of a paddle wandering into the wrong shed and co-mingling with the locals. The truth of the matter is, ‘It escaped’. Probably heard about some great party at another Club's shed. It'll hide out in the shed for a while until it's bored and suddenly someone will ‘find’ it.
Paddles without tops?
At the bottom of the pecking order are the few paddles that lost their tops. Contrary to humans, being ‘topless’ does not make them popular, because they are usually hanging around waiting to be repaired, used, abused or refused. Their days are numbered. They are rumored as, ‘Dead paddles walking!’.
So next time you open the doors to the paddle shed don’t touch anything. Check it out carefully and see if what you know now is true. And remember when practice is over, always lock the paddle shed, especially when it's getting dark and you feel the wind on the back of your neck begin to rise off a black sea.