Rx for Good Living
by Kurt Zuelsdorf
For whatever we lose (like a you or a me),
It's always our self we find in the sea.
Thankfully the Southwesterly winds weakened last week and allowed us/me a first-time kayak trip from St Pete Beach into the Gulf Of Mexico. Slow rollers created a cradle effect that gently swayed the kayak as we paddled through crystal-clear waters just beyond the swim zone. A tropical wave washes over me. Looking back at the beach from my offshore vantage point, it exemplifies Florida to me.
By the time we approach the rock jetty off Blind Pass, the hustle-bustle and hurry-scurry of city life begins to feel like a distant memory. Water is so clear that fifteen feet looks like 5. Colorful growth on the old rocks clamors for attention in the sunlight and the plantlife reaches the surface like fingers waving a gentle hello to us. The kids, whose eyes, smiles and laughter erupted with, “This is sooooo cool, OMG look at all the fish!” OMG is right! This jetty has been a source of habitat for marine life since the 60's. The inside lagoon is as tropical as any island habitat in Florida and perhaps beyond. The outside shelf is deeper, more mysterious and houses a Jewfish as big as a Volkswagon, but that's a different story. If it sounds like I'm exaggerating it's because my senses have been cleansed by sea, sand and water in my mouth, nose, ears and I feel....intoxicated!
Sometimes the first face dip of a snorkel trip can be intimidating. Trips into dark murky water with noisy grunts and large shadows darting away in your peripheral vision can be alarming. But that’s not the case here. As soon as the first flush of salt water floods the snorkel tube, the 4-foot lagoon becomes a riot of small fish! You feel instantly welcomed as millions of them dart around you.
Underwater communication is oddly understandable through a snorkel tube. For example: Everybody stuff a napkin in your mouth and beginning talking at the same time. Throw in a loud squeal of excitement and lots of questions like “What's that? Come over here. Holy cow!” and you'll get the practice you need for such a trip. The challenge is being conditioned and prepared well enough to having your goggles kicked off by the kids. So I didn’t see the “flailing” arm-punch in the gut or the backhand in the ribs coming. And then there are the little divers that come up too fast like a torpedo, slam into your hull and knock the wind out of you.
After the brief “cage-match” with the kids, I broke away and drifted into a school of darting fish. I floated lazily, quietly and watched the dizzying swirl of fish that surrounded me. They bumped into my goggles and acted much like my cat when a stranger comes into the house....confused, scared, dodging and spinning not knowing where to hide or turn next. Then I got a tickle from behind. Thinking it was one of the kids; I ignored it and remained still. It happened again, but when I turned to see who – or what – it was, nobody was there. It happened again and again. By now I'm spinning in circles to catch a glimpse of who or what was tickling my back. The sounds of laughter are the best universal language!
The kids were all lined up behind me laughing and choking on water! “Hey! The minnows are getting stuck in your back hair! Do it again, do it again!” For the fish I imagine it was like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride at Disney – each daring the other to try the big ride with all the spooky growth. Oh well, I saw this ad on TV recently for a spa that offers a treatment that involves soaking your feet in a fish tank where the fish nibble on your toes! If that's the case, a kayak trip into the soothingly warm Gulf water, a touch of sun, and a whole bunch of feeling good is just what the doctor ordered!
Kurt Zuelsdorf. Writer, Urban Tracker, Outdoor Enthusiast at Kayak Nature Adventures kayak and sup rentals