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Mountain Mama: Your Girlfriend, or Kayaking?

Dear Mountain Mama,

I’ve fallen in love with kayaking. But my girlfriend hasn’t. We live together and our house is on the way to the put-in for my favorite run. Our house’s location has made it easy for me to meet paddling partners. Lots of kayakers hang out there. I’ve tried to get my girl on the water, but she’s a bookworm and uninterested.

My girlfriend put her foot down and says it’s either her or boating. She tells me she’s going to move out if I keep allowing our home to be a kayaker hostel.

It’s not a choice I can make – I love my girlfriend and kayaking.

Kayaker Dude

Dear Kayaker Dude,

From the sounds of it, the kayaking bug bit you hard. Nobody wins with ultimatums about what passions another can pursue in life. There’s another way, one moving with the flow that allows you to keep boating and have a partner – convince your girlfriend that your new community is her community too.

No doubt your new friends talk about preferences for straight or bent-shaft paddles, compare hull shapes, and analyze water levels.

Step back for a minute and appreciate the kayak-speak that goes on in your home now. It must be like listening to a foreign language for your girlfriend. Out of necessity to describe to one another what’s around the next bend, consider all the words kayakers use just to describe water – pile, boil, curl, bony, lateral, riffle, tongue, green water, horizon, guard wave, eddy, slot, and chute.

I imagine that listening to all that boater talk might make a non-kayaker feel left out. Belonging the primal need that binds us. If your girlfriend isn’t a kayaker and has no intention of ever getting wet, it’s time to help her connect with all your new friends.

You are the key to helping her feel like she belongs. Translate for her when paddling partners geek out, dissecting every rapid on a new run. Explain what words mean so she can learn the lingo and maybe even participate.

When possible, direct the conversation to include your girlfriend’s interests. Make an effort to delve into her hobbies, offering to run shuttle if she does a point-to-point run or research her favorite books to engage her. Mastering the idioms of what she’s most passionate is one way to express your love.

Perhaps she will reciprocate and ask you friends, “Do you prefer a play boat to a creek boat?” Even if she’s never kayaked and neither knows or cares how a play boat performs, learning the language will help her feel part of your new crew.

Paddle On!

Mountain Mama

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