PACK THE ‘YAK: Chris Farley makes kayaking a breeze by Chris Wirszyla, LOL contributor

“Environmentally friendly” and “inexpensive” (after the initial investment) are a few words Christine “Chris” Farley uses to describe kayaking around some of the roughly 7,000 square miles of inland waters in North Carolina.
Farley grew up in Astoria, New York, and relocated to Wilmington after a career in pharmaceutical marketing in Manhattan. The second oldest of 11 kids, the family would go to Coney Island and get “tore up” by the waves. All her family got the sea in their blood and most live by the water today. She even had a grandfather (Nick Nerich) who swam in the 1912 Olympic Games.
Farley started running at age 28 and belonged to the New York Roadrunners Club. When she relocated to Wilmington, the heat “knocked my socks off” and the dogs and cars made it uncomfortable. Moving to Wrightsville Beach, she is able to walk on the beach and on the loop without these inconveniences. “My whole life got better,” she says.
Farley purchased a kayak for her son, John Beausanj, when he was living and working in Manhattan. After 9/11, when he lost everything, he moved to Wilmington and experienced the waters of North Carolina. He was hooked. Beausanj started a couple of online businesses, including paddlemonster.com and distressedmullett.com, which offer virtual training programs for stand up paddle boarding and kayaking, as well as anything else concerned with the sports. Farley soon bought her own kayak, which eventually became too heavy for her to easily use. She spent months researching different kayaks, and was approached by one of her son’s friends, James Smith, who lent her one of his demo models he had imported from South Africa, the Epic V6.
The Epic Series is special. At over 14 feet, it weighs only 27 pounds, is stable, and has a rudder, a self-bailer and a waterproof storage compartment. Farley used this for four months and ended up buying an Epic V5 from Smith.
“You go through these kayaks, spending $800, or $1,200, and you don’t get what you need. I made the investment for the future,” she reflects. “I want to be kayaking when I am 80. I want to be able to lift my kayak myself. I don’t want my kayak to be too heavy for me (said in a wimpy voice!). With the Epic V5, she has a whole system and is able to load, unload and carry the kayak by herself. She also said there are plenty of kind strangers out there and she never refuses help! Of course, she had to convince her husband that it would make a great 25th anniversary gift (and told him it could also count as her 70th birthday gift). He was sold and got it for her.
Farley explained kayaking is all about what’s best for the individual. Kayaking can be passive, just paddling around in serene and “easy” places, or you can find yourself getting good at riding in the waves with the kayak in the Ocean. She suggested the title of “Pack Your Own Chute” as a reference to the paratrooper packing her own chute, making sure it is equipped with what she needs.
The biggest problem is finding people her age with whom to kayak. There are opportunities, such as the Wednesday evening (5:30 p.m.) meet-up group, at the boat launch by the Wrightsville Beach Bridge; people of all ages and experience can enjoy a social and learning atmosphere. The Cape Fear Paddlers and the Cape Fear River Watch have monthly meet-ups, one of which Farley went on that went up Lilliput Creek, which was complete with alligators and other natural wonders. Chris also goes with her neighbor who loves to go, but “his kayak is getting too heavy for him.” “How old is he?”
She replied, “80.”
Farley usually kayaks around Wrightsville Beach, Harbor Island, and under both bridges. She likes going up to Topsail. “I used to be a bit of a risk-taker, but now I check everything: tides, currents, temperature. I don’t want to get stuck in a marsh again.”
She makes sure the conditions are right. She also wants to bring her fishing gear because she love to fish. “I need someone to go with me to clean the fish!” she tells.
Farley wants to get better at sea kayaking. It is just too dangerous to go alone because she needs more experience and knowledge. She wants someone who can teach her enough so that she can go out by herself safely.
“I want to get a taste of riding waves, get that adrenaline rush, it pops up and you have to grab it because that chance doesn’t come along as much as it used to, and you need to take advantage of that,” she says. “You just have to say, ‘what’s the worst thing that could happen?’, and just go with it.”
Besides, if the conditions are not right, Farley always has something else to do. She loves being a grandmother, plays cello in a community orchestra with other like-minded seniors or retirees, and is director of operations for the Port City Music Festival, which celebrates its 10th anniversary next year. The festival aims to bring classical music by renowned musicians to the masses in Wilmington for free. In addition, Farley is an accomplished artist, working with mixed media. She will be showcasing her “Ju-Ju dolls” (which promote positive energy) with other artists for the fourth Friday in September at Acme Galleries. LOL