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What's an absurd athletic failure you had?

Here's mine. At least I didn't fall in.

An acquaintance from the YMCA weight room has had a crush on me for years. Larry is married. He keeps inviting me to go sculling on the Columbia River. Last April I relented.

The boat was twenty feet long and eight inches wide. Tippy. Seat was perched above the oarlocks. Unstable. To make matters worse, the oar handles cross at your waist. "Who thought up this nonsense?" I asked. The British.

First Larry gave me an excruciatingly long lesson on land:

  1. "Feather" the oars with the oar blades parallel to the water when bringing them forward. Or the boat will capsize.

  2. He taught me different hand positions depending on oar position. Like the narrow boat, the oars are twenty feet long.

  3. Practice on land. But Larry missed two details:

ONE: He couldn't find a lifejacket that fit me. The smallest size was a men's medium: miles too big. Each time I pulled back on the oars, the oar handles got tangled in the life jacket buckles. Bad word.

TWO: The seat position was too tight for my legs. I didn't know how to change the seat position. Between the lifejacket and the seat, I couldn't get a full stroke with the oars.

Flailing ineptly in a crunched position with the crossed oar handles tangled at my waist, I was quickly swept downstream by the powerful, frigid Columbia River.

Knowing water is calmer in the shallows, I steered close to shore. Drawing on years of rowing experience (I grew up on a lake), I jerkily turned the scull around, feathering oars on the backswing. Haven't capsized yet.

Wrestling with crossed oar handles and lifejacket buckles, I ineptly rowed upriver to the dock. Felt like a total ass.

"At least you didn't fall in," Larry said on the dock.

Apparently to make me feel better, Larry told a story about Shaun Koons, a local Olympic cross-country skier, who capsized repeatedly the first time he tried sculling. "It took Shaun six tries to get the hang of it."

"I think I'll get in a row for exercise," Larry said. Away he swooped like a rhythmic ballet dancer. He flew about a half-mile downstream with three oar strokes. Eye roll.

LiterateHiker 9 Jan 12

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Yoga Oaf

Forty-eight hours after hiking fourteen miles with 5,009-feet of elevation gain, I joined an advanced yoga class for the first time. Legs were extremely stiff and sore. Hello, lactic acid.

"I have great balance," I bragged to the teacher, thinking of hiking. Not in yoga. Try standing on one foot with the other leg straight out at a 45-degree angle. "Hold and breathe deeply." I could manage two seconds before collapsing.

The teacher used Sanskrit names for yoga poses. "Get ready for Ardha Baddha Parivritta Malasana." Huh? Whatever happened to Downward Dog?

I was spectacularly inept. Announcing I was crooked, the Yoga teacher repeatedly marched over to straighten my body. It was embarrassing. Felt like a warped oaf.

At the end of class, we all laid on the floor for three minutes. "Finally, something I'm competent at," I quipped. Everyone laughed. We were supposed to be meditating.

All I could think of was how cold and hard the floor was. Shivering, I longed to grab a blanket but didn't want to disturb anyone’s sacred meditation. The longest three minutes of my life.


I don’t know if learning how to waterski qualifies…..but at 9 years old I was learning how to waterski and bellywhopped losing my balance and lost my bathing suit…LOL.


surfing didn't go as envisioned. golfs never do. running full speed, not very fast, into a sturdy shed trying to catch a football, hit pretty square. lift weights. never tried snow skiing nor curling.


I'm not sure how much this counts as athletic or really even entirely a failure. But it was absurd.

In my 20s my Park Service uncle and I were in his canoe a mile or so out in Flamingo Bay near the Everglades when a wind storm came up. The waves rose enough to swamp the canoe and I lost my grip on it.

I was a good swimmer but I couldn't see the shoreline and I started thrashing, sure I was going to drown.

Then my uncle just stood up. "You moron. You're in the Everglades. The water's never deeper than this."
When I reached, sure enough, the bottom was there.

We bounced over, grabbed the boat and when the wind died down bailed it out. The only consequence was that we lost a cool chest.😋 Ah memories.😋

haha...that would be me.


Great descriptive writing. Well done.

Loved "You moron. You're in the Everglades. The water's never deeper than this."


At a sleep-away camp, I was able to swim across the local lake, about a mile. I tried to swim the length of it, but after about a mile, got a cramp, and the canoe paddlers pulled me out of the water. Hypothermia was setting in too.


Sounds to me like he was trying to impress you with his prowess with this particular difficult activity.

Where I live men often try to get girls snorkeling on a first date. Probably to check out what we look like in a swimsuit and no makeup or hair style, not the most flattering look on the average woman.

While I love snorkeling in calm water, where I feel in control of my safety, some of these snorkel dates would be in waters I was not sure of, so anxiety would over take my breathing and that is not safe.

So, there have been some near drowning experiences where I was pressured into going into deeper waters or keeping up when I needed to re-adjust my mask. Lessons learned. I will stick to snorkeling with people I know and trust, and who are not trying to impress me by swimming off into the deep without a concern for my safety.


Way better than I'd do. Water is my kryptonite.

Seen “Jaws” a few too many times? Lol

@CuddyCruiser LOL...maybe. No I've just got a phobia about water I can't stand up in with my head above water. I was in Jamaica with my wife many years ago and I demonstrated that I even sink in salt water. But the real problem is just the phobia.

@darren316 I hear that. There’s things that scare each of us. Or make us feel uncomfortable. I had a fear of heights as a young kid……but I went on school trip to the Empire State Building when I was 10 and after that it just subsided. I spend a lot of time on the water, own a boat so I was curious.


He doesn't sound very helpful and quite the showoff. No one has ever accused me of being athletic, most of my life is an athletic failure. I just got wise enough to be really careful of what I try, so I mostly don't try.

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