The story of my kayaking catastrophe all started years ago when we were at the end of winter and quickly approaching summer. In Canada, it sometimes seems like we get 10 months of cold weather and two months of bad sledding. We were all tired of the winter doldrums. My puzzler was puzzlin’ about summertime fun when, as if on cue, the headline of an email from the local spinal cord injury association showed up and grabbed my attention: Disabled Kayaking.

Back in “life number one,” I used to love canoeing. As a child I often took the dog as front-ballast and canoed and fished around the lake wherever we hap­pened to be camping. Kayaks weren’t as popular back then, so the idea of getting a chance to try one in “life number two” was always rolling around in the back of my head.

Many things in life are dangerous, but the gray matter between our ears is there to help keep us safe and mitigate risk. We are born with a gut instinct that lets us know when danger is near, but our “intel­lect” gets in the way sometimes. Based on results — becoming a quadriplegic — in the past I may have been missing the occasional danger cue.

My kayaking adventure was a prime instance. With careful planning, even skydiving from 25 miles up like Felix Baumgartner can be relatively safe. Likewise, ignoring clues can make seem­ingly mundane activities like kayaking turn into life-threatening ordeals.