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How To: Date A Kayaker

Kayak Love!

Paddler Chris Gragtmans and author Ashley Woodring. Photo: Stephen Brooks Photography

***The original post was featured in Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine HERE***

By Ashley Woodring

I have always believed in the power of continuing education. Through a double major in accounting and economics as an undergrad, and then two years worth of studying for my certified financial planner designations, I’ve spent a lot of my life learning. In terms of pure sweat equity, however, none of the letters after my name can hold a candle to my grueling PhD in Kayaker Behavioral Psychology.

Kayakers are a complex and interesting species. After five years of dating and studying my unique boyfriend, Chris Gragtmans, I want to let the ladies know that there is hope.

Here are my top 10 tips for how to date a kayaker:

1) Gold-diggers steer clear.
Let’s face it, kayaking is near the bottom of the totem pole as far as athletic compensations go. I often tell Chris, “I date the only pro athlete that doesn’t make any money!” Compared to other professional athletes, you’re no A-Rod, Chris, sorry. Most of the disposable income that kayakers do make will go towards trips or gear anyway.

2) Kayaking is weather-agnostic.
I haven’t quite figured it out, but every day seems to be a great day to hit the water. If it’s sunny outside, “it’s a beautiful day to go kayaking!” If it’s pouring rain, “whoa dude the rivers are pumping!” If the snow is melting in Canada, “Stakeout! Let’s go surf some waves!” We just can’t win ladies…

3) Set communication expectations.
It’s often difficult to get in touch with the boys when they are kayaking. Whether in deep river gorges with no cell service, or getting lost on gravel roads, they always manage to take longer than expected to call or show up. I would recommend keeping all dinner plans after kayaking “tentative,” and have a backup plan to throw in the microwave just in case.

4) Learn the Kayaking Drinking Game.
This is the greatest invention since two-ply toilet paper. Girlfriends who get dragged to the kayaking party, fret no more. The rules are simple:

a. If kayaking is mentioned, drink.
b. If bro-brah words are used (examples include gnar, boof, stout, squirrely, portage, huck, or brown claw), drink 5 seconds.
c. If the Green Race is mentioned, FINISH YOUR DRINK.

5) Speaking of Green Race, get ready for the October mood swings.
You thought your new kayaker boyfriend was tough? Just wait until this race and that illusion will disappear. Chris can’t sleep, gets extremely nervous and grumpy, and puts all other aspects of his life on the backburner to prepare for it. I don’t see what the big deal is; I mean you just follow the water through Gorilla… it takes you right down the middle. And the line at Zwicks just looks silly. Why do you bounce over all those rocks with no water?

6) Learn to love burritos AND PBR.
Welcome to the staples, girls. Bang for your buck is the name of the game in paddling; it’s a protein and alcohol per dollar game here, and this combination reigns supreme. Save the tapas for ladies’ night, and just keep the pressure on to get a respectable date every month.

7) Try to overlook the unflattering gear.
In other sports, players wear sexy, tight uniforms that define their butts and muscles. No such luck here. Kayakers have huge drysuits, and they are always wearing these very strange looking “skirts.”

8) Buy extra air fresheners for the car.
No matter what you do to the aforementioned gear—washing, drying, rinsing—it doesn’t matter. The smell will always permeate any area that holds it for more than 10 minutes. It’s definitely a good idea to have some extra air fresheners in the purse for when you get in his car. I recommend the Yankee Candle brand, Apple Pumpkin scent.

9) Don’t feel bad if you suddenly realize you know A LOT about the gear.
I have sat in a kayak maybe five times in my entire life, but I can tell you everything you need to know about the rocker profiles of the Dagger Green Boat and Liquidlogic Stinger. I can explain to you why the Nomad is high volume, and how to pad out your bulkhead to prevent broken ankles in a piton. If I had to rate my shop-talk skills, I would call them a class IV+!

10) Strap in for the long haul.
Kayaking is a sport of confidence and commitment, so it’s surprising that these boys struggle a bit with commitment in other areas of life! I mean, it’s been five years, Chris.

This kayaker species certainly has its idiosyncrasies, but what becomes evident very quickly is that they are also some of the most passionate people alive. They have reverent relationships with the natural places on our planet, and that passion for life and nature is only magnified in their relationships with people around them. In a world focused on material success and social standing, these free-spirited beings live life fully in the present moment.

In my case, it’s certainly true that opposites attract. I work in the financial industry, and Chris works in the paddlesports industry. The two worlds couldn’t possibly be more different. In spite of this, he has pushed me out of my comfort zone and into some of the most amazing and unforgettable experiences of my life.

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