I am spending 2 weeks in Alaska with my mother. This is the first time that I have traveled since 2000, simply because I was always too broke or too busy to travel. My mother is footing the bill (mostly so she can see her grand-daughter), and her husband has scheduled some interesting trips.
The third day of our trip was Kayaking. My sister, my brother-in-law, and I all took a charter trip up to the Columbia Glacier and kayaked around the iceburgs and hiked up to the glacier. It was wonderful.
As a 250 pound woman who is barely active, I thought this might be a good opportunity to rate the fat-friendliness of kayaking.
1. Indescribable beauty. The water, the iceburgs, the wildlife, the trees, the waterfalls, the glacier, and more were all so incredible to look at that I would gladly endure any physical hardships to see them again.
2. Core muscle workout! The motion required for paddling the kayak is very core-intensive, and a good core also keeps you from tipping into the freezing water.
3. Cardiovascular workout. Sometimes we had to paddle really fast to keep up, and hiking was good for the blood circulation (especially after sitting down for so long in the kayak) and hiking also got my lungs working.
4. Brain exercise. I paired up with my brother-in-law, and we had a hard time figuring out how to turn appropriately. In our defense, we had the longest boat, but we kept paddling left when we needed to go right, until we finally realized the reversals. Thinking on our toes kept us from getting "bored."
I would rate the activity as a 3 on the fat friendliness scale, but the guide was very fat friendly (and friendly in general).
Kayaking requires a lot of equipment; the boots, the rain pants, the life vests, the splash skirts, and of course the kayaks are all designed for people that are much smaller than I. My ample behind barely fit in the kayak, and I had to try several sets of gear on before I found something that fit.
Once in the boat, weight was not an issue. But, the gear isn't accomodating, a fatty can't get into the boat. Had I been much larger, I would have had to stay ashore.
Fitness Level Required:
This requires a moderate to high level of fitness. We rowed approximately 8 miles total, and there were several short but vigorous hikes. We also had to carry the kayaks to and from the water and they were very heavy.
1. Price=$$$ The trip cost over $200 dollars per person, but that was after we arrived in Alaska and travelled from Anchorage to Valdez.
2. Gear; we had to buy some gear in advance, and if you are more the short and round type, you would have to find all of your own gear.
4. Danger; there is a possibility of capsizing in frigid glacier water. This worried me, but I was assured it was unlikely. The water we kayaked on was smooth and calm. There is also a possibility of an iceburg falling on you, but you have to be an idiot to stand under a melting iceburg.
5. No return; once you are off of the charter boat, you are stuck on the kayak tour until the charter ends (unless you are having an emergency). If you get bored, tired, or sore, that's too bad. You still have to go the 8 miles. Also, you may have to pee at glacier, which I hear from my sister is quite cold.
6. Seperation from partner; the reason that my brother-in-law and I shared a boat was because the guide recommended that partners don't row with each other. She called the kayaks "divorce boats." Sure enough, a couple that shared a boat were yelling at each other about how to turn and how fast to go. If you go with a partner, be willing to make a new friend.
7. Cold and wet; you are sitting in a boat below water level, and you are also de-kayaking at shore while still in the water. Add to that some splashy rowing techniques, and you are bound to get a bit wet. Since it is Alaska, and you are at a glacier, you will get cold.
8. Sack lunch; you pack in what you are going to eat, and it has to be easy to eat quickly, high in protein, and it has to stand up well to sitting in a plastic bag in a boat for several hours. Get ready for a soggy sandwich. Also, the charter boats all believe that banannas are bad luck, so don't bring any bananas.
9. Day after soreness; I woke up the next day feeling fine, but my brother-in-law and my sister were very sore. I worked as hard as them, but I might have a higher tolerance for pain.
Even though my list of considerations seems long, I really enjoyed this experience. I am going to look into kayaking opportunities in my area (mostly rivers and lakes, but still fun). I recommend that if you are interested you call ahead and discuss size limitations. I did not do this, but the team was very accomodating and given advance notice they might be able to come up with equipment that suits your needs.
I would love to do this every year when I visit my mommy, and maybe I can even convince her to come along.