I never like to miss a chance to go paddling, even when I’m on a family holiday, so I went sea-kayaking for a morning along Italy’s beautiful Amalfi coast.  It was a relaxed trip, guided by Mariella Di Nocera who runs Positano Kayaks.  We headed south-east from Positano, past the harbor and along the steep coastline. It’s a busy stretch of coast, with water taxis ferrying holiday-makers, dive boats, and a couple of impressively ostentatious super-yachts.  It’s also spectacularly beautiful; warm azure water, hidden sea caves and views of the towns hanging off unfeasibly steep cliffs. After a couple of hours we reached Marina del Furore, a tiny cove and beach popular with families. We stopped to stretch our legs and I went snorkeling. There were plenty of fish to see. The return leg was a little faster, aided by a following sea and fewer stops to explore caves.

In Positano harbour, unfeasibly steep town in the background









Heading down the Amalfi coast









Inside Cadaver's Cave











The trip itself was great, and I enjoyed my conversation with Mariella.  She spent many years working as a financial adviser in an Italian bank, until a combination of the financial crisis and a growing crisis in her own conscience left her unemployed. Faced with the challenge of “what do you do when you wake up and your job no longer exists?” she set up her own sea-kayak tour business.  She drew on her own resourcefulness, experience and contacts to get the business going, and now points to the Amalfi coast and proudly says “this is my office now”.

It’s worked out well for Mariella, and it got me thinking about the many ways of making a living in and through canoesport. There are more opportunities than ever to work as an instructor, guide, photographer, designer, manufacturer, retailer, sponsored paddler, funded athlete…. At times in my life I’ve earned an income through several of these roles, and it’s been fun.  But I’m not sure I could get any of them to pay enough to raise four daughters and live in London!  It raises the question about what makes it possible for any job to stay fun in the long term – and the risk of a fun activity like paddling losing its buzz when you have to make a living from it. In psychological terms, there are two distinct motivational states involved.  There’s the “paratelic” playful state in which you enjoy an activity for its own sake and for the immediate experience.  And there’s the “telic” serious state in which you do something because you HAVE to and so you just want to get it finished. At times you can alternate between these two states during the same activity. For example you may start a paddling trip in the playful paratelic state, feeling excited and wanting it to last forever.  But as the day goes on and fatigue sets in, you reverse to the serious telic state and just want to get off the water. Professional athletes like golfers often report that their sport feels more like a job and less fun than it used to be when they were amateurs.

In my executive coaching work I encourage people to use both motivational states at the right times – the playful state is great for boosting creativity, while the serious state works better when there’s detailed planning to do.

So, if you could choose your dream job, what would it be?  Would you do something that involved kayaking every day, or would you prefer to keep ‘fun’ paddling and ‘serious’ work separate?

And if you’re already working in a full-time paddling job, how do you keep it fresh and fun?

Answers on the back of a post-card please! Add your comments here and stay in touch via the  Facebook page 

If you want to learn more about Mariella’s sea kayaking trips, here’s her website: http://www.positanokayak.com