Is it Ok to Kayak Through Pregnancy?

by Maria Noakes

When the blue line shone clearly through the small window of the stick, it was a moment of roller coaster emotions. For the first time in my life I wanted to be pregnant, or did I? Thoughts coursed through my veins, pumping out an overwhelming emotional response: did I really want to be pregnant? What would happen to my kayaking, life without kayaking…would I survive?

Mostly I wondered would there come a time when I couldn’t roll any more due to a large protuberance out the front of me? Would I be comfortable kayaking? With the inevitable hormone changes, I had images of me bursting into tears above some huge rapid, with fears of dropping in; and Gorilla would I run it?  All these questions where tearing through my mind.

What I had imagined and what actually happened with kayaking during my pregnancy was a pleasant surprise. Bar the first couple of months when I was just plain doggone tired and sleep was more the issue. I was able to kayak through out, feeling relaxed and at ease when on the water. Even the week before I delivered when I was feeling particularly cumbersome

Once pregnant, I had a few major decisions to ponder over. The world champion ships were in Austria and I was pretty determined to go. I would be fine at 4.5 months, I could still throw down for sure, but word came back that the water quality was poor and on intensive questioning of several of last years victims I ultimately decided that it was too risky. Infection from the water could at the least cause dehydration, vomiting, Giardia and any medications normally used for clearing up such ailments are too risky to take. Now here was a first for me– something had come in front of kayaking and to my surprise it was an easy decision.

The physical changes you go through are interesting to say the least.  Weight gain and centre of gravity changes proved to be the most significant.

How do You Compensate for a Big Belly

By the time Dominique was born I had gained 35 pounds.  At some stage I realized I had out grown my Pocket Rocket kayak (it sunk below me).  I changed into a Space Cadet with the insight that weight is not a bad thing, it enables you to thrown down cartwheels and bow stall with incredible ease.  Fortunately Liquid Logic and Immersion Research supported my weight gain.

As for your centre of gravity, which is forever changing during pregnancy, a couple of times flipping over at random on eddy lines and you would be surprised at how your body automatically adjusts. I must admit rolling required a little more concentration, sloppy rolls do not make the grade when you have a large bump out the front and often I would use a back deck roll.

I also learned to listen to my body. Tired…stop, take a break and eat something.
Early on in my pregnancy I paddled a step shallow creek, the jarring motion when landing on or pushing off rocks felt intrusive so I opted to not paddle step creeks. As to the technicality, I made myself comfortable by always paddling on water that I felt in control on. For me this was class 3/4 bouncy water.

I firmly believe that kayaking in conjunction with yoga kept me in great health, emotionally and physically. To be outdoors and on the water was the ticket to a healthy pregnancy.

Out the other side – 6 months later post Dominique…

Getting Back In a Kayak After Pregnancy

Getting back in a boat was a huge relief.  When did I start kayaking again? At about 6 weeks, I clambered back into a wild water boat. The truth: my arms felt like jelly, I felt slow and incredibly out of shape, but above all it was great to be on a river again.

Time was and still is limited to short sessions in a hole or a quick run down the river.  No longer do I spend all day deciding which river to run when it rains. Some of this is due to the fact that I have decided to breast feed, but other factors come into play, which you don’t consider before hand; i.e. you really like hanging out with your baby!

At four months I clambered back into a helicopter and headed up to the Arahura River, my favorite river in New Zealand.  A Class V river run, admittedly I was not without my doubts heading up there.  It’s a continuous run, it takes five hours and lots of energy.  Having never had a baby before, I didn’t know what my reactions would be to fear. Could I still focus, run rapids, and mostly could I hack 5 hours of paddling?   But my doubts cleared once on the water, my focus returned and I realized that even though I had a baby and I could still kayak and the passion I feel for rivers can mix with having a baby!