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The Gearboat Chronicles

Rama Lama Ping Pong

Morgan Jenkins brings many things to this rafting outfit, but far and away his finest contribution would have to be the ping pong table he found at a garage sale last summer. It’s been a nice addition at Winding Waters HQ.

Although playing Paul will keep you plenty humble. Ditto Penny. She beats me too. And Morgan. Matter of fact, the only person I’ve managed to beat during our shop pong games has been young Patrick the apprentice, and I’m nearly certain he’s losing on purpose.

Ping pong fever has been spreading in Wallowa County, largely thanks to the efforts of Rob Taylor. Rob works for The Nature Conservancy, rides his bike a lot and has a vast array of carabiners and whatnot dangling from his Mountainsmith fanny pack. Also, he’s powerful good at pong. I stopped in to check out one of his Tuesday night pong gatherings in a local church hall last week. Rob had just returned from Seattle, where he found his way to a Chinatown ping pong parlor and, despite the language barrier, managed to get beaten very badly.

He talked as if he’d just returned from the Shaolin Temple where he’d gleaned the secrets of the Five-Point Pong Exploding Heart Technique. He was doing this crazy intro to his serve where, rather than just holding the ball in his fingers then hitting it, he cups it in his hand and presents it to his opponent, then gingerly drops his cupped hand and initiates contact with his paddle when it gets to the elevation he’s looking for. I guess this is to avoid trickery. Like . . . spinning the ball? Maybe a spitball? I don’t know.

I knew Rob was enthusiastic about the sport . . . waaaaait a minute, I’m not sure ping pong should really be classified as a sport. Even by dressing it up with the name ‘table tennis’ I think it’s a stretch. Olympic event or not, I think you should have to move around a little more before calling something a sport. Although I did see Bill Knox putting on an ankle brace before playing pong the other night – so if you can potentially get injured during the course of play, maybe it is a sport. I’m not sure.

What I do know is that Rob Taylor has a padded carrying case for his personal ping pong paddle, which officially makes him an enthusiast. I’m also guessing that it makes him easy to shop for. Anything ping pong-related should make a person happy once they reach the stage of transporting their paddle inside its own case.

Between games, Rob tucked his precious into its case, even though he would be using it again in just a little bit. I couldn’t figure out if this was to keep it from getting scratched or dinged, or to keep it warm, or what.

His explanation was, “Well, I figure if you have a case, you might as well use it.”

Can’t fault his reasoning there.

So while I’m not familiar with Chinatown serving etiquette and do not own a paddle, to say nothing of a padded case, I will be back for Tuesday night ping pong to get myself into shape for games in the boathouse this summer. If you can’t be rowing a boat through whitewater in the off season, might as well be working on your hand-eye coordination for when it does warm up again.