Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Kayaking and the desert

Music breathes softly through the cracks between the spot welds of Ricardo Breceda’s magnificent desert sculpture as the hot breeze fills its cavernous body. In its escape, as from the bellows-filled bladder of Northumbrian pipes, the air makes music.

Ricardo Breceda's desert sculptures breathe with the breeze

Music is not the main purpose of Breceda’s sculpture, but as I move through the desert to stop at each massive monument I can hear the breeze playing across the surfaces.

Heavy metal guitar, but the desert music whispers

The sounds remind me of the diverse water songs I hear in my more usual environment paddling kayaks and canoes. Many of these sounds I create myself as I strive for efficiency. Maximum effect for minimum effort plays its own tune, a different one from maximum effort with indifferent efficiency.

An efficient stroke sounds different from an inefficient one

There’s the rush of water when I pull too hard and my blade drags through the water losing traction. There’s the quiet “sip” sound when I slice my canoe blade edge-first from the water after a stroke, a sound I hear from my wooden blade but not from my carbon one. There’s the plop of blade entry when the trajectory is poor.

A carved turn sounds different from a skid turn, an efficient stroke sounds different from an inefficient one. The slap of kayak against wave subdues when I tune from out-of-sync to in-sync paddle strokes.

A skid turn sounds different from a carved turn

When I listen I can hear these water sounds like the song between the metal plates of the desert sculptures, but it’s easy to miss their significance when there’s a lot going on. It's better to start listening on a quiet day.

Nigel Foster's newest book "The Art of Kayaking" explores how to get maximum effect for minimum effort, and this mantra has influenced his kayak and paddle designs.