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Men and Decision-making (long)

It must have been about a year ago that Wave~Length Magazine published a whole edition devoted to “Women and Kayaking.” As you might expect, the edition featured all sorts of articles by female authors about kayak-related issues as seen from their point of view. I read a few of the articles, but I perceived an “anti-male” tone in a couple of the stories that really tuned me off. Specifically, the stories implied that men were poor decision-makers who often led less-skilled or weaker paddling partners (namely women) into difficult or dangerous conditions.

At the time, I was pretty offended by those articles and I quickly tossed the magazine into the recycling bin. After all, bad decision-making is bad decision-making regardless of gender. Now I’m starting to wonder if they didn’t have a point….

While exploring Bahia de los Angeles (Sea of Cortez, Baja California Norte) last winter, I was sitting ashore waiting out a multi-day Northerly blow before I began a solo trip out to the islands. Each morning would start off calm and pleasant, but between 08:30 and 08:45, a line of black water would appear across the mouth of the bay and in less than 20 minutes the bay was awash in 3 foot white caps and streaking foam. There was so much mist blowing off the wave tops that the mountains ringing the valley would be obscured by afternoon. Both wind and sea would calm during the night, and the process would repeat itself the next day.

On day four of this blow, an American couple in their late thirties (man & woman) drove up to the beach and began loading up their kayaks with gear. I went out to say hi and explained that we were probably still in the midst of a strong Northerly blow and that it might be best to wait a day to see if it was over or not.

I was very low key in my approach, but the man was immediately on the defensive and dismissed my words of caution with an irritated wave of his hand. It certainly wasn’t blowing now, he said, and besides, he’d spent five weeks paddling in the area over the last few years and had seen a windy day or two. I asked him if he normally paddled this area around Christmas and he said, No, he usually made his trips around Easter. Never-the-less, they (he and his wife) were heading out that morning. Period. End of discussion.

I was just about to wander off when Beach Bob, a retired American living on the bay came by and gave them the exact same warning. By the now, the woman was definitely paying attention, but the man could not be swayed. He was paddling out today, Damn it! He was an experienced paddler!

I watched them paddle off, and just about the time they hit the middle of the bay, all hell broke loose… just as predicted. I watched them with my monocular and at one point I think they might have made a couple hundred yards of forward progress in 45 minutes of hard paddling. Eventually, I lost them in the white caps and never heard whether they turned back or tried to round Punta Rojo and into the safety Puerto Don Juan. Just as a side note, the next few days were perfectly calm and my trip was fantastic.

So… needless to say, I had to rethink my reaction to those stories in Wave~Length. Maybe there’s some truth to them, and a few lessons to learn. Comments?