It’s funny because a lot of pepple assume kayaking is an extreme sport (it can be, for some) where daily paddlers put their lives at risk. Mostly, you see people going off waterfalls, sometimes on fire, or running rivers like the Stikine. Sure, kayaking has an extreme side, like most all sports. But, paddling for me, and my family is all about family fun, pushing ourselves, overcoming our fears and spending time together.
Kayaking is a sport like none other really. It is so addicting that most paddlers will kayak at any cost. When my brothers first started, they didn’t have drysuits, so they paddled in shorts. I watched a KelloggShow video of them and Clay Wright running the spout in Rock Island, TN and they were indeed in shorts. I paddled my first Shoshone New Year’s Day Paddle on the Colorado River in a dry top and shorts. Incidentally, I swam, and while I was definitely freezing, I was more proud that I’d done it at 8 years old!
I’m often asked where my favorite place to paddle is. When it comes to river running, that’s an impossible question because my answer is everywhere. I love to go to new places and paddle into areas that are remote and inaccessible by any other means. It is like hiking 14’ers, just way more fun. But the feeling of accomplishment is the same.
If you ask my favorite place in general to paddle, I’d have to say I love Buena Vista more than anywhere right now. There are so many rivers to run, from Class V to Class II and the playboat holes are super fun.
But that is the cool thing about kayaking. It changes your life. When my family discovered it, I was like 5 years old. My older siblings went to school, everyone did their own sports, like football, hockey, wrestling, track, etc. and we lived a normal life. Literally, my parents say, after discovering kayaking no-one wanted to do anything but kayaking. My brothers started skipping practices just so they could paddle instead. It completely changed our lives.
We started traveling for competitions and to run new rivers. We bought an RV to make this easier and then … my parents decided to homeschool everyone and we morphed into living in the RV and being a fulltime travel family. I’ve been all over North America and even been to 3 European countries because of kayaking.
I got to travel to Edgemont, BC to surf Skookumchuck, where I paddled alongside seals and searched for starfish and other sea creatures, that might actually be my favorite kayak destination. I’ve paddled in Denali National Park. I kayaked in the Bay of Fundy which is one of the 7 wonders of the world because it has the highest tides on earth, the rarest whales in the world and even dinosaur fossils!
Being part of a kayaking family has taken me from one end of the country to the other and brought me even closer to my family. On the water, we are all dependent on one another. We are each other’s safety line. We also are each other’s coaches, cheerleaders and mentors. We experience the same excitement, the same fears, the same challenges and the same triumphs. We have all won and we have all lost. Being on the river is like being in an alternative universe where only fun, excitement and adrenaline are allowed to enter.
Kayaking is largely a mental game. It has taught me how to control my fears, to control my thoughts and to face challenges head on. This lesson, like all the rest, takes me further than just kayaking. I am able to evaluate risk based on facts and skills, not emotion. This serves me well in my other sports like snowboarding and dirt biking and climbing.
But, mostly kayaking is just super fun. It makes you forget everything else because you’re so focused on the excitement of paddling through big holes, or over the big rollers, or dodging all the boulders. I love the challenge, and I love the thrill. And, I love that it is something my entire family can enjoy together.