Kayaking at the "Parc des eaux vives" in Huningue, France

Sandra and Björn invited us to a day of kayaking in the waterpark in Huningue in the Alsace, just across the border in France. This was for our wedding in 2016 but we only managed to find a date now. Andrey and Arne joined us and we split into two groups so that Sandra and Björn could be the experienced guides for the rest of us noobs, most of whom had never been in a kayak before. This also meant that we could always have a group on shore to take care of Leonie. Luckily the surrounding area of the park is super nice and kids friendly with adventurous playgrounds. While Leonie did have a lot of fun on those she was also mesmerized by the action on the water and watched the boats with fascination. Doubly so if she recognized one of us in a boat.


Each crew had two hours in the water so we'd start with a bit of an introductory course to learn the basics on the dammed up calm lake section before the actual run. Followed by a wild ride through the whitewater and then some more practice going upstream through the rapids before a final run down. It was a super hot day so the water was really nice and refreshing. Of course this also meant that it was quite crowded with many parties on the water.

Leonie being her usual fearless self. If we had let her she'd have jumped right into the water too.
How's this for a playground attraction?! I approve!
Leonie watching the action on the water.
Paddling back the return channel to go for another round.

My understanding is that a good strategy for surviving the waves is to hit them straight on while maintaining speed and momentum. Basically my default strategy when the going gets rough: "Flucht nach vorne" (literally "flight forwards"). This got me through the first run alright, but it also meant that I was a bit of a rowdy, playing bumper cars with the other boats. No harm intended ;-) Climbing the learning curve was satisfying. Already on the second run I felt much more in control and managed to hit the eddy after each rapid to meet up again with the others.

Why don't they have boat elevators? Sad. Losers.
Sandra waiting for me to bounce out of the entrance waves.
This is a bit of an embarrassing picture: I'm in the lower yellow kayak. A few minutes later we were looking for Andrey's paddle which is drifting right past me in this picture. I didn't notice it...

Unfortunately I screwed up one exercise where Sandra instructed me to hit a rock by drifting into it sideways. She told me the right thing to do was to "embrace the obstacle as your friend" and lean in to it. She demonstrated this by giving the rock an exaggerated embrace. On an intellectual level this makes perfect sense because this way you keep the underside of your boat up and into the current. The alternative is to have the wave roll over you and tip you over. And of course this is exactly what happened to me. It's a bit annoying that my lizard brain took over so quickly and easily after just having been told the right thing to do. But it feels counter intuitive to lean into the thing you are about to crash into rather than away from it. Anyway, I got this right on my second attempt. Lizard brain override successfully engaged.

I like how in-sync we are...
...in these two pictures.

I somehow managed to squeeze and bruise my thumb when I went swimming at that rock though. This sucks as I was meant to go climbing today and am now sitting at home with a swollen, hurting and barely mobile thumb. Apparently old men are not allowed to go kayaking and climbing in a single weekend ;-/
We still had a total blast. It's an exhilarating rush to speed through the waves. Anita loved it, Leonie got a thorough workout (she basically collapsed once we got back home) - I'm pretty sure our little family will be back. Thanks to Sandra and Björn for patiently coaching us and enabling this experience! Now please take me on the Vorderrhein ;-P

Oh yeah!
All smiles.

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