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Monday, June 19, 2006


Flippy Floppy

Happy flippin' Father's Day!

And I do mean flippin'! The first half of my day was a crushing disappointment. It could've been much worse, though. But let me back up a bit.

Our new kayaks arrived just the other day and we started making plans for our maiden voyage on Father's Day. These beautiful sit-on-top Malibu Pro2 Tandem kayaks certainly looked exciting as we carried them to the beach and situated ourselves with one adult and one kid on each of the two kayaks.

Let me back up again by saying that we were sold on these kayaks by a multitude of testimonials and sales pitches concerning their stability. The Malibu Kayaks website proclaimed them to be "exceptionally stable." The kayak shop owner assured us they wouldn't flip. On another visit, his daughter told us how it was next to impossible to flip these state-of-the-art kayaks. And, when we picked them up, the owner's wife reminded us of how stable and "unflippable" they are.

Okay, we were convinced that this was ideal for a family with kids. No need for a demo. Why do that when everyone's in our face saying how stable the kayaks are, and how they just won't flip.

You can guess where this story is headed. Back to this morning, we start paddling out from shore a little ways, stopping about 50 yards out to relax and soak in the grandeur of a sunny summer day on the lake in North Idaho. What could be better? Up paddles my wife and daughter, so I decide to take a picture of them. I shift in my seat to open the small hatch under my legs...

And over we go.

You ever have one of those moments where time seems to freeze and speed up at the same time? The kayak flipped over so quickly I didn't even know it was happening. I went under the water, but quickly popped up because of my life jacket. The water was a cold shock, but the bigger shock was not seeing my son. He was under the boat. Thank God for life jackets. I grabbed at him and yanked him away from the kayak, scared to death as he sputtered water out of his mouth and nose.

He began screaming and crying, which then set off my daughter in the other kayak who was now paralyzed with fear that her boat was going to flip over too. I grabbed at our kayak, flipped it back over, then forced my son halfway onto it, calming him down so he could pull himself all the way up. He was shivering and crying so much that he was unable to help himself, but my wife and I were able to drag him onto the kayak. He lay there close to hyperventilating when he suddenly looked out beyond me and, in a panicky voice, shouted, "Daddy!! Your chapstick!!"

We actually started laughing then as I saw my little black chapstick floating away on the surface of the lake. My son recovers quickly from near-death experiences, I guess. My daughter, on the other hand, froze stiff as a board and cried the whole way back to shore. On the beach, she hopped away from the kayaks like they were crocodiles snapping at her feet.

We sat there, looking at our expensive new toys and realizing that our kids will never get back on them. Which is completely understandable since they were right there with us as the experts explained to us how safe and stable these kayaks were. So good for kids. Great fishing platforms. Wonderful way to explore the lake. Not once did anybody say, "Hey, ya know, sometimes these things flip over and you'll find yourself going for an unexpected swim." No, they said that about the old-style sit-in kayaks. They steered us away from those because the sit-on-tops are "exceptionally stable" and "unflippable."

Another lesson for my kids: Don't believe everything you hear or read. Sometimes personal experience is the best way to learn if something works or not.

As for me, I don't think I'll ever shake that brief sickening sensation that I experienced upon not seeing my son pop up to the surface of the water. That moment when I grabbed at his life jacket under the kayak is now seared into my brain and is sure to be the subject of my nightmares for years to come. I haven't even gone to bed yet and I've already had an awful image of my hand snatching an empty life jacket out of the water. I'm not sure I even want to fall asleep! I am sure that tomorrow morning I'm returning those kayaks.


Blogger radmama said...

How awful!

I do not understand how sit on top kayaks could be more stable than sit in kayaks...

My kidlets have been in plastic sea kayaks that were exceptionally stable and a pleasure for calm days.

I hope you find a better toy for waterplay!

6:51 AM  
Blogger Kristen said...

That must have been so scary. Poor kids, and poor you! I've put in plenty of time in regular, sit-in kayaks and have never had a problem. I did flip a canoe once with a friend of mine, but we were thirteen and who knows what we were trying to do when it flipped. Our potato chips all floated away and we felt much like your son did at seeing your Chapstick disappear. I hope you give those salespeople a good talking to...

11:15 AM  
Anonymous CroutonBoy said...

Ah man, I'm sorry to hear that. If I was a kid that would probaby scare the bejesus out of me, too. Maybe you could take them to a pool sometime and try it again.

Oh, and Happy Belated Father's Day

1:21 PM  
Blogger Phil said...

UPDATE: The kayak store owner said he'd take them back, minus a 10% "restocking" fee. Uh, no thanks, I could do better than that selling them on eBay.

However, I've just had a brainstorm!


I think this might calm the kids' fears. By attaching some sort of outriggers, I can make the kayaks 100% unflippable. We'll see....

1:52 PM  
Blogger landismom said...

Yikes! That must have been terrifying. I think the outrigger idea is a great one.

7:03 PM  
Anonymous Brent said...

I'm really sorry you guys had to go through that but the chapstick thing is hilarious. I've often seen families on kayaks and thought how nice it will be to get my boys on them as they get older... this makes it more likely that we will go with a canoe as our first watercraft... I promise, they NEVER tip over.

9:16 PM  
Anonymous adwina said...

Hi, Phil. I'm so sorry to hear it. By the way, I've made a short review on Father's Day. Maybe you'd like to come by. It's What Men Said about Father’s Day

10:55 PM  
Blogger Hannelie said...

Sorry to read about the bad experience, I can just imagine how scary it must've been.
All the best with the future plans, I hope it works out well.
BTW, what is a chapstick?

11:49 PM  
Blogger Phil said...

Hi Hannelie, Chapstick is the name brand of the most popular lip balm in the US. It comes in a little hard plastic tube. I'm in the habit of carrying one with me because my lips get dry and chapped easily. It floated right out of my pocket!

1:01 AM  
Blogger Hannelie said...

Oh off course, once you said this I clicked I now know what you're talking about. I thought it was some part of your kayak. I can appreciate why you all cracked up and laughed.
Hey, I see you are not on my map yet, would you mind pinning yourself on it for me please? I love seeing where every one is from.

10:34 PM  
Anonymous littlebluehouse said...

6:24 PM  

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