Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Looking for a Kayak


Yesterday, I decided to find a kayak and paddle the Oslo fjord.  I had read that there’s a kayak rental place and a kayak club in the port area.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote to the kayak club fishing for an invitation, but they told me that only members can paddle with them and it would cost me much too much to become a member. I hoped that if I showed up in person they would be nicer.

I packed my daypack with lunch, a life jacket and bilge pump, took my storm paddle in hand, and set out.  

A few blocks out a tall white haired paunchy wrinkly fellow approached me and began speaking excitedly.

““↻↩↭ ՓԾ փտԺՃՉ ሶመ ሚቌቢڅ ݭ.”

“I’m sorry, I don’t speak Norwegian.”  I told him.

He pointed at my paddle, still wrapped in blue airplane plastic.

“It’s a kayak paddle.”  I told him.

He nodded enthusiastically.  I demonstrated a few strokes.  WIth grunts and gestures he explained to me that he was an avid paddler.

“Do you know a lot of people in the area who kayak?”

He sure does, he gestured. He was happy to meet an American paddler here in Oslo.

“Can you help me?”  I asked.

He shook his head “no” and walked away.

I walked for about 40 minutes to get to the area identified on my hostel provided map as the port and began asking around the touristy piers if there was anywhere I could rent or borrow a kayak.  The answer I got was “Not here, maybe at the marina.”  I began walking to the marina.

On the way I passed a museum.  I went in and asked if I could use their restroom.  “No, it’s only for guests.”  The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City lets me use their restrooms.

I was at the marina in half and hour and found a very helpful fellow in a small fishing and boat supply shop.  He showed me a “lake” on my map where he thought there was a kayaking club.  So I walked for a ways longer, until I found a sufficiently secluded spot to admire the scenery behind a dumpster, and then a ways longer still and after half an hour was at the lake which was a cul de sac of the fjord and there was a kayaker on the water!  I asked around and discovered that kayaks were for rent there the previous year but no more.  I moved on.

“You see that building there in the distance?”   

I looked, it was far away, but sure, I saw it.

“I think that’s where the kayaking club is.”  A fellow told me.

So I walked another ten minutes, went down a small road, and found myself next to the building in a parking lot, at the edge of the city, looking at four plastic yellow kayaks on a rack.  There were sprayskirts on them.

A woman was working in a walkin container nearby.  I asked her if I could borrow or rent a kayak, and she told me to talk to her boss.

I held the proffered phone to my ear.  It rang.

“Hello?” The voice at the other end asked me.

I felt very unsure of myself.  I did not speak Norwegian and over the phone the kayak owner could not see my gear or take me for anything other than a bothersome freeloading tourist.

“Hi, I’m a kayaker.  I’m in Oslo for the week.  I was hoping I could borrow or rent one of your boats?”


“I’m an instructor.  I teach rolling and surfing and all sorts of skills.  Maybe I could give a free lesson later.”

“Sorry, there is no room.”

“Oh.  Okay.  Thanks anyways.”  I hung up and gave the lady her phone back.

There was no more Oslo.  I had walked far enough.  

I sat down on a grassy spot near the water.  I ate my lunch and watched the kayaker do laps too far away to call out to.

I was ready to go home.  I left the parking lot, and there were some English speakers standing around a trailer with a bunch very fast fiberglass kayaks on it.  

They were nice and they were helpful and they gave me a phone number and told me there was a kayak club one town over.  I should call the number.  The club was too far to walk to.

So I walked back to the hostel, going a different way than I had come and taking pictures on the way.  Waiting for me there was an email from a friend of a friend who’s a Norwegian kayaker.  She told me two things:  Yes, she could probably help me get a job as a kayak guide in the Norwegian fjords next summer and she knew a guy one town over from Oslo that I could go kayaking with.  It was the same place I had the phone number for.  

I’m going to go kayaking.

As for the fjords, I decided not to go to them this trip.  Just getting out there would cost me a couple hundred dollars for transportation.  Another paddler friend of a friend who works out there told me that I could hitchhike.  I like the idea, but I would want at least a couple days to give it a shot and there’s not enough time.  One day, I hope, I’ll get out there on the water, paddle between snow crested mountains, and find the small plaque where Slartibartfast signed his name.



  1. Great! Take a look at and if you see anything you like, please let me know.

    If you tell me what kind of paddling you do, how experienced you are, and how big you are I can probably help you pick something out that's just right. Why don't you email me at

    Hope to see you on the water,

  2. Great story and determination. And +1 for HHGTTG reference.

  3. Thanks! The guide is indispensable for those of us who never research where we're going until we get there.

  4. Hi,
    I found your business card in a train in Norway.
    My job is to make greenland paddles.
    Next time you are in Norway you could contact these people if you want to borrow/rent a kayak in Oslo:
    And I would recommend this guy if you ever want to build your own traditional kayak:

  5. Wow. Thanks for getting in touch with me. I do hope to build my own kayak one day. I've read Christopher Cunningham's book Building The Greenland Kayak and will probably follow his instructions as closely as I can.

    Funny how the card seemed to find a good home.

    Hope to see you on the water one day,

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