Thursday, May 30, 2013

Scout Training

There has not been a lot of paddling in the past couple weeks for a variety of reasons that I won't go into here. The continuing weirdness of our non spring, including a 9000 acre forest fire in northern Wisconsin, and then a biblical rain event that washed away a number of vulnerable hillsides, has transitioned the ice choked fishing opener into an weirdly schizophrenic early summer type thing.  It's been so strange that I was forced to schedule a pool session (collective gasp from the readers!).  Don't worry though, it was at the Bayfield Rec Center pool, that 82F, salt water gem only 15 minutes from our joint in Washburn.  I had agreed to help a Boy Scout troop get ready for a paddle trip and a week ago Sunday evening we all got our salt water bath. 

I was a Boy Scout, a proud member of Troop 133 in Eau Claire, WI.  We were certainly the most 'outdoorsy' troop in the council as our Scoutmaster, DonR, had some land outside of town with a shack and a nice fire ring.  No church basements for 133, we met out there 12 months out of the year with the only cancellations due to thunderstorms or anything lower than -10F.  Good training for winter camping I suppose.  I never got a whiff of Eagle, only made it to Star, and blame the opposite sex and the Schlitz Brewing Co for my sudden lack of interest in camping with a bunch of guys under adult supervision.  It did however, teach me how to camp and nourished a life long interest in camping and the outdoors, experiences that I would not have had in the family as the US Army had quickly cured the Old Man of any interest he may have had in camping in tents. I was really interested to meet these guys and see just how the average Scout compared with the range of altar boys through delinquents that we had in our Troop.  I am very happy to report that things have not changed all that much. 
I think we had around nine boys and a couple adult leaders, one of which was a kayaker.  I figured with only an hour, that a quick intro to the boat and then getting right into wet exits and T-rescues was the best use of time.  Everyone was anxious to get wet and  I had a number of volunteers to be the first person to tip over in the water after watching my dry land wet exit demo.  There were some constants, things that we see with adult learners as well.  Most guys tried to pull the spray skirt straight back, even after I had emphasized it needs to go forward and up.  Almost everyone banged on the boat with one hand since the other one was firmly grasping the grab loop of the skirt.  One thing that was different however, was that everyone tipped over with very little drama.  In an adult group at least one or more folks will have serious trepidation about the wet exit, some to the point of having to do it with the skirt loose to gain confidence.  I am sure the peer group pressure with all their buddies watching from the side of the pool is what facilitated those quick wet exits.  I know for certain that the catcalls, smart remarks, and merciless abuse from my peers in Troop 133 would have made me set aside any wet exit angst and get on with it.  I was somehow reassured to see the same dynamic in effect here.  T-rescues were a bit sloppy but in the interest of getting everyone into both the swimmer and rescuer position, we moved fairly quickly since our hour was winding down.  Nuances, refinements, and minor corrections will take place on Long Lake when the water gets above 65F.  My faith in teenage boys was reaffirmed both by the fun that they seemed to have at the pool session and also when I caught a wet towel  being rolled up in the locker room in preparation for snapping an unsuspecting ass.  Some things never change and never should.

I'm sure that with the recent controversial ruling on gays in scout troops, people are anticipating an editorial comment on my part.  It's not a bridge to die on in my opinion and I think Big Gay Al, the former Scoutmaster of the South Park Mountain Scouts Troop had a good take on the subject in the (always) politically incorrect episode entitled, "Cripple Fight".  Dogmatic positions and inflexible rhetoric makes both sides look as stupid as, well, as stupid as the US Congress. I know that I really enjoyed the interaction with the guys and am looking forward to more on the water training and maybe a game or two.  My buddy Chuck up in St Cloud took his Troop on an Apostles trip a couple years back and offered me some good insight as well as some pretty fun skill building games.  Because in the end the reason we work on and develop the skills is to have good, safe fun on the water.  Working with the young guys reminds me that fun in a kayak is indeed the goal that we should all be striving for.
(Since I was kind of busy instructing, the images are not of the pool session but of a trip to Philmont Scout Ranch in 1968, good 'ol Troop 133 in the flesh)


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