How I Broke my Tooth while Kayaking

You might have read on one of my blogs that I’m accident prone and/or that I’m too scared of breaking my tooth again. It’s not that I don’t want to move on; it’s just that my friends won’t let me. That story or the fact that I’m still alive despite my clumsiness are topics of conversation that come up in my circle of friends more often than I would like. Why you ask? I guess because my friends really enjoyed the time I looked like I only needed a broom to fly. Those sick sadists!

Although I feel more identified with words starting with a “b” rather than a “w”, this story remains a traumatic experience for me, particularly when people question its authenticity or make me feel like an idiot.

So this is what happens every time I say I broke my tooth while kayaking:

The rest of the world: “You mean canyoning”

Me: “No, kayaking”

People: “Paragliding?”

Me: “KA-YA-KING”

People: “Surfing?”

Me: “K-A-Y-A-K-I-N-G with a kayak”

People: “Hammering with a hammer”

When they finally get it, they ask me if I was kayaking Grade 6 rapids, but I reply instead I was cruising along a harbour and that is when confusion reigns. I can tell their brain struggles to make sense of the story, then freezes and results in: “ERROR! IT DOES NOT COMPUTE! IT DOES NOT COMPUTE!”

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To avoid any further confusion, I’m going to start from the beginning. There’s a rumour going round that the day I was born the nurse dropped me on the floor… Actually, let’s fast forward a bit to my backpacking days in Sydney. Excited as I was to explore all that this novel city to me has to offer, making the most of its warm weather and glorious beaches, I convinced two of my friends to go kayaking with me. I found an offer on Groupon and we only had to pay $20 to play this water sport in Mosman.

These two friends are quite different from each other. There’s Dido who could easily be a model, eats one meal a day and likes to go shopping. My other friend is Lenka. You don’t want to find yourself up against Lenka… that girl trains A LOT. Once I went to the gym with her and I almost didn’t make back alive. She may be one of my best friend but that didn’t stop her from mocking me after I yelled in pain “I’m lazy, I’ll just save money for plastic surgery.” Okay, well, that’s pretty mockable. But hey, nobody told me I was going to get my butt kicked by Ronda Rousey here. 

So those are my two companions and then there’s me – the accident-prone, awkward, clumsy backpacker. Something was bound to happen. If only it hadn’t been so expensive to repair.

At the time, Dido and I lived together, so the plan was to meet Lenka in Mosman (North Sydney). Whether the universe was conspiring against us or it was trying to save me from breaking my tooth, either way it took us forever to get there. Despite Google’s help, we were unable to find the bus stop before asking dozens of people. Then we waited for ages and when the bus finally arrived, we were terribly unlucky to get a cranky driver. His hobby seemed to be yelling at passengers and he probably enjoyed making us look like idiots when we asked him if that was the right bus. The conversation went something like:

Us: “Does this bus go to this address?”

“Where are you headed?”

“Mosman”

“And what does the bus say at the front?”

“Mosman”

“Now what was your question again?”

Dido and I glanced at each other flushing with embarrassment, then looked down and crestfallen we proceeded to take a seat. While we observed the bus driver being rude to most passengers, Dido tried to justify him by saying that he was probably having a bad day, perhaps people had been rude to him and he had had enough. Then she became rather philosophical about the world, and how it’s all a vicious circle where one person is mean to another and the latter is mean to someone else; this is rather unlike Dido who gets nauseous whenever she hears the word “love” or sees a hippie walking down the street. This time, however, she was determined to make the world a better place by being extra nice to the bus driver.

She started making conversation with him in her sweetest and politest tone. After flashing a few warm smiles, she courteously asked him for directions to get to the harbour where we were meeting Lenka. He smiled and explained how to get there in an extremely friendly tone.

We hopped off the bus with our spirits high, satisfied that we had made a difference in somebody’s life. As we walked by following his directions, Dido gave a speech about how you can change somebody’s mood by being nice and polite to them. She also defended the bus driver by saying that people can be really rude sometimes. As she spoke, she took her phone out to check Google maps to see how far we were and then realised we were getting farther from our destination.

“He gave us wrong directions! That sick a-” she said. Let’s just omit that word. The point is that by the time we made it to our destination, we were over an hour late and it was fortunate our tardiness didn’t result in the forfeit of our voucher… or was it?

At the store, they were really nice about it and so was Lenka. Then they proceeded to explain how the kayaks work. For Lenka, it was a piece of cake; for us, however, it was all new and we struggled a little, but we got the hang of it in the end… sort of.

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While Dido and I were having a laugh going round in circles trying to figure out the pedals, Lenka was a pro. She would get way ahead of us and then come back to check if we were fine.

The harbour is a very pleasant place to go kayaking. Framed by majestic prominences of land upholstered by lush flora and white houses, the harbour boasts a beautiful view with its bright blue water and luxurious boats on a sunny day.

We spotted a small beach and decided to rest ashore. As we got closer and the water became clearer, all the jellyfish became visible. That was a thrilling sight. Seeing hundreds of those beautiful transparent umbrellalike creatures was fascinating. What wasn’t fascinating was the thought of getting off the kayak in the midst of those tentacles that can cause you severe pain when they sting you. We paddled as close to the shore as we could and cautiously continued to disembark.

We evaded the jellyfish and reached the sand safely. There we had fun like kids. First we sunbathed and gossiped. Next we pretended the paddles were lightsabers, we were Jedis and Siths and had an intergalactic duel. Yeah Lenka kicked our butts again.

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Then we sat in our kayaks again and started paddling back when Dido’s kayak overturned and she ended up in the water. Once she started to freak out about the jellyfish, Lenka was on her way to help her to get back in the kayak. Don’t look at me, there’s a reason I didn’t help Dido. I was having a panic attack. I was safe in my kayak but I can sympathise. That’s what best friends do. Once she was back in the kayak, I laughed really hard at her, half relieved, half surprised it wasn’t me the one fraternising with the fishes.

Dodged that bullet.

We paddled forward again, freely and with more confidence. Since the guy who rented us the kayaks told us not to go beyond the white lighthouse as that is where the open water begins, we kept our eyes open so we wouldn’t end up in the ocean with a bunch of sharks circling us.

Given that Dido and I kept turning sideways, Lenka asked us what we were looking for. “The lighthouse,” we replied, “but it’s hard to find it with all the white houses around.”

Lenka chuckled. “The lighthouse is right at the top of the hill in front you. No wonder you guys got lost coming here.” Dido and I turned to look at each other and we both nodded. Lenka was right. We weren’t even able to use Google maps. What we needed was a book called “How to get a sense of orientation for dummies.”

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We made it to the point where the harbour opens to the ocean and the immensity of the sea before me shook me to the core. I looked down at the water and realised how much darker it had become. The murkiness of the water and the impossibility to ascertain what creatures it conceals beneath the surface gave me chills. I found myself standing still in the kayak in the middle of the immensity and above the unknown, thus I decided to head back.

Paddling back allowed me to get over the momentary panic I found myself in and perhaps it was playing at being a Sith which gave me confidence to have fun again. I started racing Dido because there is just no point in racing Lenka unless you take pleasure in losing. Confident as I was, I paddled with more intensity and once I reached a high speed, I decided to scare Dido who was sitting motionless. She looked at me with fright as I approached her from the side paddling as fast as I could. The joke was over so I decided to stop or go the other way but I lost control and ended up crashing into Dido’s kayak.

My efforts to slow down followed by the crash caused my kayak to overturn. The sharks and the other unknown creatures hidden by the obscure waters all came flashing back to me. I panicked. Just the thought of having my body in those dark waters in the middle of hungry marine animals terrified me. I was expecting to feel sharks’ sharp teeth tear into my legs anytime now. That is why instead of acting rational and calm, I desperately tried to get back in the kayak in a rush. As I swiftly jumped in the kayak from the side, it turned on me and it hit my mouth causing my left front tooth to shatter into pieces.

Lenka came to help me get back in the kayak which was now flooded. I checked my front teeth and realised it was only half my tooth that was gone. That was a relief. The impact had been so intense for a moment I thought I had lost all of my front teeth. Dido and I stared at each other once I checked my tooth and we both burst out laughing.

We started paddling back, but since my kayak was full of water, it was hard for me to keep the balance. Then Lenka became my hero as she started dragging my kayak along hers. It was a comical sight to see Lenka as a pro while Dido and I were still trying to figure it out.

When we returned the kayaks, the people who rented them couldn’t believe I broke my tooth. They were surprised and confused as to how it happened. Apparently, nobody had ever broken their teeth while kayaking before. Happy days!

But that wasn’t the only near death experience I had that day. I also forgot to put any sunscreen on which caused me to get a very bad sunburn. The combination of both made me look like a hobo. Later on that day, one child was staring at me, so I smiled at him and he burst out crying. He probably thought I was a witch. He cried so hard their parents looked at me with resentment.

Once I made it back home, I showed my broken tooth to my friend/roommate Laura and she rolled on the floor laughing out loud. Laura wouldn’t stop chuckling the whole day down. At some point, she stopped laughing, therefore I thought she let it go, but then I spoke and she started laughing again. She said “I had forgotten about it.”

So that’s the story of my broken tooth: my friends laughing while I was crying and an expensive dentist bill. I wish I could say the story ended there but the trauma has followed me ever since: when I went whitewater rafting, kayaking in Abel Tasman, bungee jumping, when I eat apples…

And my friends won’t let me forget about it either. When I was planning to go to Cairns, they kept joking I should upgrade my medical insurance, they tried to convince me to get dental coverage and pushed me to get a premium travel insurance when I travelled to New Zealand. Ironically, I’ve been paying for insurance as if I owned a Ferrari, yet nothing has happened to my teeth ever since. *Knocks on wood*

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