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January 20, 2006

The video production part of this trip is heating up finally as Chris and I have been spending time doing the audio instructional part of the “EJ’s Playboating: Basics”. We have come up with what I think will be a fun and effective format for the 2006 version of Playboating. In 2003 we covered the fundamentals and each move. We had bonus tracks on how to get to the Zambezi and Nile Rivers also, and a short segment on physical training for playboating.

The 2006 Playboating DVDs will also feature favorite tips by each of our team members in between the moves. These tips will likely be one of the most valuable part of the videos. There are quite a few things that the combined experience of some of the best kayakers in the world, who have access to many other of the best kayakers in the world and share information between each other constantly; can bring to you in the form of helpful hints and tips. These tips are rarely about how to do a move, but instead, on things in general. I have one on how to keep your paddle from being slippery, and how to protect it, with no wax needed (an example).

The other part of the DVDs that will be cool is that they will feature Emily, Dane, and Nick (ages 15, 12, and 16). Kids aren’t hindered by what they thought was possible 10 years ago, and mine are exposed to both good whitewater and top paddlers enough that we can watch them grow from just learning to roll (EJ’s Rolling and Bracing was filmed 9 months after they learned to roll), to EJ’s River Running (Basics and Advanced) where they could be seen enjoying and becoming more experienced and skilled river runners. Now, we will see them both running some of the biggest whitewater in the world, and playing on the every feature we can find. It is very inspirational to me to watch them become so intoxicated by kayaking, enjoying it to the fullest, and becoming unbelievably good at paddling at the same time. In slalom, Dane would have to wait 2 more years to be eligible to compete in the junior world championships. I have had my eye on him to see just what a kid so young would do with access to a kayak that he can throw around.

Because of Dane’s size and age, and his 25 gallon, 5’1” kayak, he has become a spectacle on the Zambezi and now the Nile. Even the non-kayakers know his name and when he is spotted around town or around the river the local people point and say, “there is that kid I was telling you about from the river”. The raft guides now make it a part of their normal morning speech and stories on the raft to talk about this little kid who not only goes down the river but does all of the big lines and surfs the big stuff. I have been watching him to make sure that he isn’t getting a big head from all of the attention. (not that I was worried about it, but worth watching). I am almost completely confident, that his mental make up is such that he is aware of the advantages he has as a paddler, and will forever remain humble to the average boater. He has no problem talking trash to Jay Kincaid, or Stephen Wright, or Clay Wright, since they have no problem talking trash to him either. This is friendly banter that is part of any healthy male relationship (in my opinion).

The entire team has really proven to be as good as I could imagine a team being. They are supportive to each other and very supportive of Jackson Kayak. They showed their true colors when Jessie needed help at her clinic to get it ready for the opening. Jay, Emily, Dane, Nick, etc. all did manual labor, digging ditches, laying brick sidewalks, mixing cement, etc. Everyone was on hand, including Marty Cronin, and Peter Weingarten, at Jessie’s opening ceremony for her clinic which was awesome. Devon met an orphan named Simon, who has scoliosis. He is about 11 and his back is severely bent and his chest is popping out from the ribs being displaced. As I write this, Devon is taking the orphan to Jinja hospital for X-rays and hopes to find a way to fix his back up. He will die from this if not fixed and is a great kid with a bad start in life. While Devon doesn’t have the money to pay for a surgery to fix him up, she will find a way. Need I say more about our team? My goal for selecting a team of the best athletes in the sport of kayaking was two fold. First, they must be the givers in the world, not the takers. Some people think, “I am good, so give me something.” Team JK thinks, “I am good, and I want to help others with the skills and resources that I have.” Philanthropy isn’t a specialty of mine, I must admit. Living below poverty level income from 1984-1993, and then paying off debts after that from 1993-2003 put me in the frame of mind that I must try to take care of myself and family first, since I am not doing a very good job of that as it is. This type of situation is not unlike some of my team members, who have chosen a life of paddling, over income generation, and consequently have little resources other than time to give away. Still, they manage, and for that, I am impressed and humbled, knowing that had I had their example 15 years ago, I would have been a better person for it.

I am writing to you today, sitting on a chair about 200 feet above the Nile River in sight of Bughali Falls (where Chris Emerick smashed his elbow and his bursa sack, putting him off the water for at least a week). The view is wide open, with a panorama that extends for miles in each direction. There has been plenty of rain this year and the landscape is a lush new green, from grasses and plants that are sprouting new leaves in place of brown. It is about 85 degrees and sunny today and I am wiped out physically from a 4 hour session at the Nile Special. We got a shuttle at 6:30 this morning and returned at 1pm. I am trying to convince Chris that we need more shots for Playboating: Advanced from Nile Special, but he is ready to get Basics shots now. Sometimes you have to turn the volume down a little on the playtime. Bingo, the owner of Nile River Explorers has created a paradise here at the put-in of “Day 1” section of the Nile. It has a divided clientele. The main bar area is for the party hardy crowd and the “Front Porch, Black Lantern” side is for quite and relaxing. Last night we crossed over to the main bar in celebration of Jessie’s opening, and with the kayak crowd going nuts. I encouraged those paddlers who surf Nile Special to enjoy themselves last night to assure that we would be the only ones surfing this morning, and it worked! Go to for info on booking with them.

I have attempted to check my email several times since I got here and have had no luck yet. There is a lot going on at the home front of both Jackson Kayak and the Jackson family. John Ratliff is handling the operations at home, as we build and ship out our 2006 models to our Preferred and Super Store dealers. They have already moved into the new facility, which we will hopefully close on by the time I get home. This facility should be all that we need to grow into. I still have to check out the 18,000 gallon tank and pump on the property to see what the maximum CFS is that we can run through a short course. I don’t even know our new telephone numbers!

I called our mortgage broker who got the appraisal finished for our new log house. Let’s just say that since there were no “comparables” for him to use, I was hit hard with a super low appraisal, meaning more money need to close the loan. We will need to get on it fast to make this happen, since extra cash isn’t something we usually have laying around. The way I do things isn’t for everyone. Most people would get the loan approved, appraisal done, and know what they are getting into before spending a lot of money on the a new house. I went ahead and jumped in with two feet before I had any idea what the deal would be. I am not getting a bad deal at all, it is just that I am in too deep to turn around. How cool is that! That takes 100% of the stress away from me. I don’t have to wonder if building the house is the right thing to do, but instead I have a challenge to overcome to make it work, but retreating isn’t an option. This is what I did when I quit college after my junior year, assuring that I couldn’t chicken out and get a job as an engineer, when I wanted to be a kayaker and was broke. It is screwy logic, I know, but it works for me.

Emily is still at the Nile Special and it is 3pm now. She has been there since 7:00am. Dane came down on a later shuttle, because Kristine made him stay home so our group wouldn’t get too big. Nick came with Dane.

Well, that is enough for now. I will attempt to put some photos on this article before I send it.

🙂 EJ