Pleasure Practices with Sami Schalk: Get wet

The slow-moving joys of kayaks, and other water activities.

The slow-moving joys of kayaks, and other water activities.

Illustration by Rodney Lambright II.

As the title might suggest, this month’s Pleasure Practices isn’t about food again. I promise next month I’ll have a food-oriented piece, but this summer has been hot AF and spending time in a hot kitchen is the opposite of pleasurable for me right now. Instead, I want to talk about water. I’m a water sign (emotional, home loving Cancer here, holla!) and I love being in and near water, especially when it’s 90 friggin’ degrees outside (hi climate change). Here in Madison we have an abundance of access to water from lakes to pools. This summer I am taking advantage of living near so much water and I think you should too! No matter your level of comfort with swimming, there are plenty of ways to find pleasure in getting in and around water to beat the heat.


 My most recent pleasure practice has been kayaking. Prior to the pandemic you wouldn’t have caught me on a boat if you paid me because, well, the Titanic, but after a friend convinced me to try a pontoon boat on Mirror Lake for her birthday, I’ve found that slow moving, steady boats on small bodies of water where I can still see the shore feel pretty good to me. So this summer I’ve been kayaking. Kayak rentals from Wingra or Brittingham boats are $16 to $20 for the first hour. I enjoy these because you’re on Lake Wingra or Monona Bay, which are smaller bodies of water than Lakes Monona and Mendota. My ideal kayaking experience is honestly mostly floating with a mild to moderate amount of paddling to get to a cute spot with a view. For me, being in the middle of a big body of water brings a certain kind of calm awe that is deeply pleasurable and satisfying.

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But kayaking isn’t the only way to get wet this summer. Here are some other suggestions for finding the water situation that’s right for your body and budget:

  • Hit up a splash park. I know these are mostly intended for kids, but have you ever put on your bathing suit on a Tuesday afternoon and run around some giant sprinklers? Highly recommended. I would suggest going to the splash pads at Elver Park, Cypress Park, or the Lakeview Splash Pad in Middleton.

  • Go to a pool. Ask around to see if any of your friends have access to a community pool or a private one in their neighborhood or apartment complex. Get a silly pool float (I have two unicorn floats and one shaped like a pair of lips), a good playlist, some snacks, and have a good ass time in and around the water.

  • Hang out by the lakes. Even when I can’t get in the water, I still like being near it and catching the breeze off the shore. I like James Madison Park, the Terrace, and Tenney Park especially as places to hang out close to the water and maybe dip my feet in. Recently I put up a hammock right next to water in Law Park and had a nice time lounging around listening to the waves lap the shore.

  • Get wet at home. If you have access to outdoor space and a hose, you have even more options. My friend recently purchased a kiddie pool for her adult self to lounge in the backyard. Last year another friend bought a giant rainbow arch sprinkler for her kid. You can go pretty cheap to fairly expensive with these things so make the choice that’s right for you. Hell, sometimes I turn the two gallon pressure sprayer I bought to water my balcony garden into a mister for me when I’m in the hammock outside. Refreshing as hell.

The moral of the story is: get wet this summer. No matter your size, your gender, or your athletic ability, get wet. All bodies are good bodies. All bodies are beach/pool/lake bodies. Shout “I’m a badass bitch” as you run through the sprinkler or cannon ball into the water. You won’t regret it.

This is our newsletter-first column, Microtones. It runs on the site on Fridays, but you can get it in your inbox on Thursdays by signing up for our email newsletter.

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