No one could have predicted this, but coming back to Sweden has brought me back to kayak racing! Graham never really stopped training and competing, but I have not raced at all since 2016, and have not raced in kayak since….. 2006? Unsure. Thinking we might do some paddling/camping through the archipelago, I brought my 22 year old Brasca IV carbon kayak blades in my suitcase. This spring I got an adjustable shaft for easier transport, and when we joined the canoe club I found out my kayak blades still work. My arms still work too! huh.
I was really happy to find a couple of morning paddlers who are about my speed: Arne and Per. Both are approaching retirement age, but in typical Swedish fashion they are out training and racing and just generally kicking ass. They were very welcoming and encouraging, and encouraged Graham and I to participate in a local race… they even offered to give us a ride and transport the boats! For Per this was also the first race in 5 years, so we both went in with low expectations and thinking it would be nice to dust off the cobwebs and see how it goes. I was pretty happy with my race: given we are talking about 1 month of 3 paddles per week, I was happy to finish the 7km with good technique and no pain… and I had folks to paddle with along the way, which made it feel like a race instead of another training session. Thanks to the FK Ringen Canoe Club for putting the race on – it was a free event and they even had free hot dogs and drinks for participants after!
The location was super. Orlången is a local lake with several public parks on the shores, as well as some private property. It is self-contained, meaning that it does not connect to other lakes, or to Mälaren (the big lake that connects via locks to the Baltic Sea). This means no motor boats! It was mercifully free of jetskis, wakeboarders, waterskiers, sailboats and motorboats. The officials’ boat for starting the race was a canoe! (Side note: Canoes as we know them are charmingly called ‘Canadians’ in Swedish. ‘Kanot’ or Canoe is the name for all boats propelled by paddles, and includes kayaks and stand up paddle boards.) The map of the course shows that in addition to some cute little islands and a historical demonstration farm, there are lots of Viking ruins. Graham and I have had fun doing ‘ruin-orienteering’ with maps like this, so maybe at some point we’ll have to come back and check some of them out.