The Unspeakable “G …” Word [27]

By Jim Croft

At the recent and not so recent Honeymoon Bay Rock’n’Roll and Skills weekends, one word was conspicuously absent from the banter of prominent members of the club executive.

True, there were veiled allusions, hushed whispered innuendo, and furtive guarded mumbles. But no-one dared utter the loathsome G-word.

And what is the unmentionable word that the towering colossi of the cream (let it not be said, the scum that floats to the top) of NSW sea kayakers shun? What are the syllables that have awesome muscular mountains of men mincing and mewling in abject self abasement and cowering political correctness?

Gauntlet‘!

And what is this fearful gauntlet thing?

From the Concise Oxford Dictionary:

gauntlet 1, n. (Hist.) armoured glove (fling, thrown down the ~, issue challenge; pick, take up the ~, accept challenge); stout glove with long wrist, for driving, fencing, wicket-keeping, etc. Hence ~ed a. [Late ME, f. OF gauntlet (gant glove f. WG *want-, med. L wantus)

gauntlet 2, *gant- n. Run the ~, pass between rows of men who strike one with sticks, cords, etc. as military naval, or school punishment (also fig. of being subjected to criticism). [earlier gantlope f. Sw. gatlopp (Gate 2, lopp course, cf. G gassenlaufen) w assim. to prec.]

But surely this can not be the reason for uncharacteristic reticence and mute humility on the part of NSW sea kayakers. No glove nor mitten would distract these committed souls, and being beaten by sticks pales beside the spectre of eskimo rolls and practice rescues on a grey and frigid dawn.

No, a gauntlet in NSW sea kayak parlance draws on the imagery of each definition above: it is a challenge that only the weak will ignore and the only the superhuman can resist; it is a rocky corridor of punishment through which only the skillful can pass unscathed. Truly, it is the hard place between two rocks.

So, why must we not speak of this evil beast? Is the fear of retribution from those too timorous to risk kayak life and limb so great? Is the desire for peer acceptance as responsible, warm and caring members of our guild so strong? The time has come to end this era of puritanical righteousness, extract the gauntlers from their closets and have them assume their rightful place at the very apogee of sport of sea kayaking.

But how are to assess the merits of these paragons? How are we to quantify their perils and bravado? Humbly, I submit for consideration, a bidirectional gauntlet grading scheme, a scheme so revolutionary in concept that not only will it prognosticate a grade of gauntlet based on its physical attributes, but that it will also retrofit grades to gauntlets based on physical attributes of objects passing through the gauntlet.

For consistency with the NSWSKC trip grading scheme, gauntlets are graded in 6 main classes, grade 6 being the most difficult, grade 1 (and 0) being the most benign.

The Proposed NSWSKC Gauntlet Grading Scheme (NSWSKCGGS)

How to use the NSWSKCGGS

Description:
descriptive name of the gauntlet type
Glove slap equivalent (GSE):
in keeping with gauntlet definition 1, the impression that being hit across the cheek with such an item would create.
Minimum aperture:
the shortest distance between the narrowest points of the gauntlet; this distance become significant as it approaches the length, width or depth of the kayak and paddler.
Conditions:
the physical state of the sea and weather to be expected in this class of gauntlet.
Effect on standard kayak:
the crux of understanding this parameter is being able to categorize physical damage, and estimate size of remaining pieces of kayak. The standard kayak is considered to be either a fibreglass or Kevlar Pittarak or Arctic Raider, as these are the type of kayaks most likely to be found in gauntlets. For obvious reasons, plastic kayaks such as Puffins are considered unacceptable gauntlet testing instruments.

This and the following two parameters enable the paddler to accurately predict what will be left of equipment and personnel after running a gauntlet of known grading. Not only, but also, by inspecting damage to equipment and personnel after running a gauntlet of unknown grading, an accurate grading can be accurately retrofitted to that gauntlet.

Effect on standard paddle:
similar the the effect on the standard kayak; the standard paddle is 220 cm long, fibreglass shaft and blades, feathered or unfeathered, but most importantly, expensive.
Effect on standard paddler:
similar the effect on the standard kayak; the standard paddler is deemed to be the sort of hoon that paddles Pittaraks or Arctic Raiders, as these types of paddlers are most likely to be found in gauntlets.
Courage equivalent:
Beverage required to enable paddler to enter gauntlet without raising adrenalin levels.
Skill level:
Mandatory skills required before gauntlets at this level are attempted.
Techniques:
Strategies and procedures that will assist paddlers to pass through, and possibly survive, gauntlets at this level.

Grade 0

Description:
Subgauntlet (also known as the Very Wide Gauntlet or Null Gauntlet)
Glove slap equivalent (GSE):
disposable surgical glove (or 5 clean condoms)
Minimum aperture:
2 or more standard kayak lengths
Conditions:
flat calm or light airs; no swell or waves
Effect on standard kayak:
nothing at all; but if you stay in grade 0 gauntlets too long the effects of osmosis on composite hulls may be evident.
Effect on standard paddle:
possible UV damage to gelcoat; paddle blades get wet
Effect on standard paddler:
apathy, lethargy, boredom, sunburn.
Courage equivalent:
glass of water or warm milk.
Skill level:
the ability to stay in the boat on flat water will ensure you get through this gauntlet.
Techniques:
point bow in the general direction of the gauntlet and paddle in any direction you feel like; experienced gauntleteers should be wary or acute attacks of narcolepsy in grade 0 gauntlets. You can turn around, eskimo roll, and do whatever the hell you like, except have fun, in this gauntlet.

Grade 1

Description:
Wide gauntlet
Glove slap equivalent (GSE):
latex dishwashing glove
Minimum aperture:
1 standard kayak length
Conditions:
light to moderate breeze; slight swell surge.
Effect on standard kayak:
minor scratches on hull, generally not through gelcoat.
Effect on standard paddle:
paddle shaft gets wet; very rarely chips to paddle blade.
Effect on standard paddler:
water splashes to the hands and arms; no adrenalin; minor interest in changing surroundings.
Courage equivalent:
cup of tea (or weak coffee), no sugar.
Skill level:
This is a beginner’s gauntlet. The ability to paddle more or less in a straight line is an advantage.
Techniques:
point bow in the general direction of the gauntlet and paddle more or less in the direction of the gauntlet. Turning around in the gauntlet may or may not be possible, depending on the deviation of your boat length from that of the standard kayak.

Grade 2

Description:
Medium gauntlet
Glove slap equivalent (GSE):
chamois leather driving glove, cycling glove
Minimum aperture:
0.5 standard kayak length or c. 1 paddle length
Conditions:
moderate breeze, some clouds, swell surge in one direction, about the depth of kayak hull
Effect on standard kayak:
abrasions to hull, through gelcoat to first layer of resin; reinforcing fabric not exposed.
Effect on standard paddle:
chips to tip and sides of paddle blade likely
Effect on standard paddler:
water splashes to the face and hair; minor adrenalin; irritation at the thought of hull blemishes.
Courage equivalent:
single scotch, rum and coke, gin and tonic, etc.
Skill level:
intermediate and training gauntlet. Wet and dry rubbing of hull; application of filler, flowcoat/gelcoat.
Techniques:
point bow in the general direction of the gauntlet, paddle towards the gauntlet and try not to scratch anything. To turn around in this grade and higher (to grade 5) gauntlet, stand kayak vertically (bow or stern down) and pivot horizontally around the longitudinal axis of the hull – technically somewhat complex, but there is no other way.

Grade 3

Description:
Narrow gauntlet
Glove slap equivalent (GSE):
Cloth or canvas gardening glove
Minimum aperture:
0.25 standard kayak length
Conditions:
moderate to fresh breezes and cloud cover likely, swell up to 0.25 standard paddle length, possibly in both directions; predictable clapotis.
Effect on standard kayak:
abrasions and gouges to hull, through gelcoat, resin, and into one or more layers of fabric.
Effect on standard paddle:
possible loss or breakage of one or both paddle blades.
Effect on standard paddler:
minor abrasions to knuckles and elbows possible; medium adrenalin; serious concern to mild panic at the sound of rock gouging fibreglass.
Courage equivalent:
double scotch
Skill level:
basic polyester/epoxy fibreglass technique (eg. the chopped strand roll, the resin sweep, etc.)
Techniques:
point bow at gauntlet and paddle where the bow is pointing. Exceptional skill is required to turn kayaks in this grade gauntlet.

Grade 4

Description:
Very narrow gauntlet
Glove slap equivalent (GSE):
leather riggers or working glove
Minimum aperture:
2 standard kayak widths
Conditions:
Stiff breeze, dark clouds, swells to 0.5 standard paddle lengths, in both directions, clapotis.
Effect on standard kayak:
various holes in hull, punctures or gashes through all layers of resin and fabric.
Effect on standard paddle:
paddle length reduced to 75 % of initial length.
Effect on standard paddler:
cuts and abrasions to exposed parts of the body; major adrenalin; major panic over the extent and cost of repairs to hull.
Courage equivalent:
three fingers of scotch.
Skill level:
precision epoxy and polyester resin mixing, advanced fibreglass layup.
Techniques:
point bow at gauntlet, paddle, and try not to think about the extent and expense of hull and paddle damage.

Grade 5

Description:
Very, very, very narrow gauntlet
Glove slap equivalent (GSE):
Welding glove
Minimum aperture:
1 and a bit standard kayak widths
Conditions:
approaching storm, squall, etc., thunderheads likely, unpredictable clapotis and breaking swells at least 0.5 standard paddle high.
Effect on standard kayak:
kayak breaks into 2-3 parts, generally at the bulkheads.
Effect on standard paddle:
paddle length reduced to 40-60% or initial length.
Effect on standard paddler:
cuts and abrasions to all limbs and torso; serious adrenalin rush; very serious panic over the cost of a new boat.
Courage equivalent:
half a bottle of scotch
Skill level:
Eskimo roll a waste of time in this grade gauntlet. Thus it could be argued that this grade of gauntlet is suitable for the unskilled paddler.
Techniques:
point bow at gauntlet, paddle, and try to remember where you put the duct tape.

Grade 6

Description:
Hyper gauntlet
Glove slap equivalent (GSE):
chainmail glove, studded motorcycle glove
Minimum aperture:
less than 1 kayak width
Conditions:
gale force and above, thunderheads, lightning, possible waterspouts, dumping surf in excess of 0.8 standard paddle length high.
Effect on standard kayak:
average size of kayak fragments 30cm x 30cm or less.
Effect on standard paddle:
what paddle? throw it away, it is no bloody use here.
Effect on standard paddler:
cuts, abrasions, lacerations to any or all parts of the body, broken limbs and fractured bones of the torso; adrenalin overload; kayaker doesn’t give a damn about his boat or paddle.
Courage equivalent:
none required; stupidity essential
Skill level:
not much required here, but a lot of luck helps; the ability to balance a kayak edge-on to the water a distinct advantage.
Techniques:
point bow in the general direction of the gauntlet and paddle; a prayer to the deity of your choice may be of assistance to both experienced and inexperience paddlers. Duct tape will be of no use whatsoever after running grade 6 gauntlets.

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