To draw you must close your eyes and sing. – Pablo Picasso
Do you have a paddling song? Maybe a whole repertoire? What songs do you sing when you paddle? How did you choose them?
People have paddling songs for lots of reasons. Some folks sing in groups just because they are class clowns or entertainers. I remember once paddling with a group of guys who knew all the lyrics to all the songs of the classic nautical musical, “HMS Pinafore”. That took some work and obviously needed to be shared around whenever possible! Besides, what better way to impress the girls than singing tunes from “The Lass that Loved a Sailor”? Some paddlers sing on the water when they find themselves getting board and spacing out. After a few hours paddling it’s easy to lose your rhythm, get sloppy and become less efficient on the water. A good paddling song sung in the time of your natural paddle stroke can get you back in order. Some find paddling songs most useful when the wind and waves start pushing their comfort zone. A good song can calm you down and help you to regain your focus. Remember, when fear causes tension, you stiffen up, lose balance and make mistakes. For what it’s worth, remember what famous Native American Chief Tecumseh once said, ” When your time comes to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song, and die like a hero going home.” Maybe if you sing like a hero, you won’t die at all!
As for me, I didn’t choose a paddling song, it was thrust upon me in a moment of fear. Although I used to play in a college rock band back in the day, I don’t feel all that comfortable when removed from the stage. Funny thing about a stage, it’s a surprisingly good defense mechanism for shy types. Be that as it may, I don’t normally sing when I paddle in a group. I discovered my paddling song was when I was scared sh*tless, battling against a katabatic wind in Puerto Rico that was threatening to blow me and my paddling partner to Brazil. Well, maybe not quite that scared.. but certainly in a moment of extreme tension… Somewhere in the midst of the screaming wind and the needle-like mist being tossed from decapitated waves, I realized I was singing. In my head mind you. I didn’t dare open my mouth for fear that just that bit of air suddenly caught in my face would be enough to offset the balance and send me sailing backwards! There I was, pressed to my physical and mental limit.. singing, “I’ve Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts”! About a half hour later I as sliding up onto the beach on the other side of the wide tropical bay. That story seems to be the one that always gets left out when I talk about that trip. Well, there it is then!
Since then I still find myself singing that song when I’ve been paddling any distance or when the weather starts picking up. It’s not just the silly lyrics that make it a good paddling song when all is breaking loose but it also matches my natural calm weather paddling stride. It brings me back to base. Which is exactly what you need when things start to get a bit dicey.