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Sixty-Something: It’s Never Too Late To Learn How To Kayak

T.J. Clemente

The author's wife, Cindi Sansone-Braff, who recently took up kayaking. (Photo: TJ Clemente)

It's never too late to do something you always wanted to do - like kayaking. Being sixty-something, it is getting later in our lives. I recently joined someone who always wanted to kayak, but never had and now proudly does. In this summer of COVID-19, there are many tragic and horrible stories, however here is a happy one.

My lovely wife, Cindi, and I love to swim off my sailboat - usually at Sammy's Beach in East Hampton. This is our 12th summer together enjoying hot summer days swimming in the Hamptons; not so much in the ocean, but in the bays. For years we have watched the kayaks and paddle boarders around us and never did I ever think or know the true passion my wife (also in her mid-sixties) had to actually kayak. There were hints, but never did I understand the true desire until this summer.

We were swimming in the Great South Bay at a beach we call "half hour beach," because it is less than a mile from our home and we usually run there for a half hour swim, then run home. One day, not that long ago, we were swimming in a low tide and stopped to observe a group of young girls and perhaps one mother kayak passed us in a collection of kayaks - with no two alike. I watched my wife's eyes and saw something I had never saw before, that she really wanted to try kayaking and was sad she never had. I saw this in her eyes and face standing but a foot away. She said nothing, but I know what I saw.

Now my hard-working, successful wife (psychic/playwright/author) is capable of purchasing a kayak factory, but she is one of those types who will spend money on everyone except herself. She drives a modest car, and her line is: "I like to live below my means," meaning she saves money and has been all her life. She has no debt, there is no home mortgage. Yet, she would never buy herself expensive jewelry, etc., and especially not a kayak.

While we were drying off after the swim, I went to my Amazon app and searched for a kayak that made sense for her needs. I knew a little about kayaks, thirty years ago I owned two, but honestly, I never loved kayaking. I chose the Intex Excursion Pro Series - it's an inflatable. It comes with two seats, but could be setup for just one. I surprised her. Arriving within a week to our home, it cost only $434.49 and was delivered to my front porch. I chose an inflatable so we could store it easily, knowing from previous experience what a burden a hard kayak is. Also, as an inflatable float, it is softer, safer and easier to learn with, being almost impossible to tip over. It can hold up to 400 pounds, but weighs only 39.01 pounds and is 12' 3" long and 3' 1" wide. A very safe size.

Now, for all you kayak nuts, I understand the thrill of sleeker, quicker, more expensive kayaks, but for my wife I made this choice.

The first day's conditions were tough with strong winds blowing in and actual three-foot waves in the bay. Cindi had to learn to paddle with the wind, against the wind, against the current and fight big waves. At first, it wasn't pretty. But Cindi is in phenomenal shape for any age and graduated from the University of Connecticut with a playwriting-degree (with honors), so within that first hour she figured it out.

Because it is as soft as an old car tube, I can tie this kayak to my car roof securely with but two ropes. Just yesterday I sat on the shore and watched Cindi kayak for an hour. She had a huge smile and intense look of concentration. She may grow tired of kayaking someday, but I know one thing for sure: no longer will she ever say that "I always wanted to kayak but never have," and the caveat is she learned and mastered it in her mid-sixties!

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