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March 1, 2005

While paddling is a lifelong sport, it became apparent
that two things really got in the way of paddling for most people who
started early in life; marriage and kids. My club when I was in high school,
the Merrimack Valley Paddlers, did a mock Norse Funeral for any member
that got married or had a kid. This represented the death of their paddling
career. Well, times have changed, and opportunities have emerged to turn
a once paddling killer into a way to improve your paddling opportunities
for the long run.

That change is teaching your spouse, and/or your kids
to paddle. Let’s start with the first challenge to any kayaker with

You want to go practice your roll in the pool. Your
spouse has had a hard day and wants to do something relaxing. You ask
to go to the pool and the friction starts. “You can’t expect
me to be happy that you are going kayaking, leaving me with the kids,
because now I can’t do anything.”

Same couple same situation:

“Honey, why don’t you relax and do something
for yourself tonight. I am going to take the kids to the pool and teach
them to kayak.” The tired spouse says, “Wow, thanks honey,
that is wonderful. I love you.” Then off you go. Same situation,
way different outcome.

Then the real benefits start to appear. Your kids start
off mildly interested in kayaking and with a little time in the pool,
at the lake, etc. they become way into it. Why? Because it is awesome,
and they are doing something that none of their friends have done yet,
giving them a feather in their cap that makes them feel good about themselves.

A couple of years down the road and you will have paddling
buddies in your kids, and they will be running the same rivers you are,
unless you are a class V boater.

What is the secret to assuring your kids actually like
to paddle?

  1. They need the right equipment. This means a cool
    boat, in a cool color, that they know is the right boat for them. This
    means a Fun 1, Fun 1.5, Star, or 2 Fun. The only kids kayaks that exist
    that a kid won’t feel like an loser in. Did I say that a kid may
    feel like a loser in a kayak because it is not up to snuff with what
    other people are paddling? YES I DID! I know for sure that a kid can
    either get the feeling of accomplishment and of doing something special
    and being cool, or they can quickly realize that they are handicapped
    by using a boat that is not right for them and feel like, “I had
    fun, but I want to try something else now.” My son Dane lost all
    interest in kayaking (other than foam boating) once he realized that
    his little fiberglass boat was not planing hulled and won’t do
    the cool things that everybody he saw on the water did. He actually
    asked me at age 6 for a “planing hulled kayak”. I said,
    “Why?” he said so he could spin on waves. I said, “You
    can’t spin on waves until you learn to roll.” He said, “I
    don’t need to learn to roll until I have a boat that can spin
    on waves.” And we were at a stale mate. He didn’t see the
    point in learning to kayak (beyond paddling around) unless he had a
    boat that he could do “fun stuff” in. I didn’t see
    the point in making him a boat unless he showed a real interest in learning
    to roll, etc. THAT IS WRONG!!! Once I made him a boat that was the right
    size and high performance, he was immediately hooked and wanted to paddle
  2. Let them go their own pace and they will not be
  3. Get them around other adults that are genuinely
    impressed to see them kayak. That is easy when they are in a little
    boat like the Fun 1 or Fun 1.5 because right now it is such a novelty.
    When little Lauren Burgess paddles with her dad; people can’t
    help but to notice her, and have complimentary things to say to her.
    I have found that the novelty of the sport does wonders for any kid
    who learns to paddle.
  4. Get them to cool places.

Jackson Kayak has spent more money on kids kayaking
product development than all other companies combined from my best guess.
The main motivation was for me offer the same opportunities to my kids
that I have in paddling. I have heard people tell me that I put my kids
into nice new kayaks because they are “free”. I spent $180,000
making them their kayaks, with no indications that it was a smart business
move or that I would retrieve that cash. With that said, I am willing
to bet that in the long run, the biggest boost to whitewater kayaking
will be the introduction of your kids into it. It will allow more adults
to continue kayaking, and add the kids to the sport as well. One day really
soon, you’ll be paddling down the river and have to ask a 10 year
old, “Hey, which is the easy line on this drop?” And they
will say, “follow me”. I had this exact experience this past
weekend when I had Lauren Burgess, age 9, paddling her Fun 1 on the Big
South Fork, lead me down the Canyon section of the river. She gave perfect
directions and ran each rapid like a champ. Her dad swam a few times showing
that she was progressing even faster than him. Very cool stuff.

See you on the river- with the kids!

🙂 EJ



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