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In 2003 I wrote an update called, out of Africa. It included Malaria, filming our original “EJ’s Playboating Basics, and Advanced Playboating”, the Zambezi, and the Nile Rivers, with a similar cast as this year, but not entirely the same, 4 years later.

We now have a younger cast with Dane, Emily, Nick, and Joel all 18 or under, and then the “old guard” of Ruth, Jessie, and EJ all over 30, and Stephen holding down the high 20’s crowd. (of course I am into the 40’s now, but who is counting)

I have learned a lot on this trip, about youth, and about the future. Anyone who says the youth of today is somehow less than the youth of the past, is simply an old person trying to make themselves somehow feel better by putting down young people. I have watched as Emily, Dane, Nick, and Joel have grown up from being little kids (except Nick who I have only known for about 6 years) into teenagers and young adults. This is my first time spending any real time with Joel in a capacity where he has had the opportunity to either prove himself, or not, but the rest of the crew has been under my watchful eyes for a long time. If this sampling of kids has any indication of youth today, we are all in good hands! Motivated, intelligent, kind, witty, caring, funny, and know the proper boundaries between good fun and crossing the line. The fact that these 5 kids call themselves Team JK members is something I am truly proud of.

I have also learned about growing old. It is a fallacy that was invented by people who have gotten tired and have decided to withdraw from life instead of playing it hard like they used to. Since I am not in the company of but a few adults, I have been a kid the whole time I am here. We play volleyball, go swimming in the creek, play Frisbee, go kayaking (a lot), and eat, drink, and sleep like kids. Being a kid is something that I intend to continue to do as long as I live, and hope my kids and one day my grand kids will want to keep playing with me. Kids come from a have fun first attitude that is beaten out of them in college and sometimes high school by well meaning, but sadly mistaken adults who want the best for them. I think that they will ultimately be more successful at something that they enjoy, especially if they still know how to enjoy things!

I have also learned about my body again. I dropped from 170 pounds to about 157, toned up, strengthened up, and am fully ready for anything I throw at my body. At home I was over doing caffeine, alcohol, stress, and not enough exercise. I am a compulsive person that would make the perfect drug addict. I would want more drugs and go to any extreme to get them until I OD’d. It is interesting how my balance in life is determined by my situation if I don’t consciously determine it otherwise. I am focused on improving my physical and technical paddling situation and this means lots of work, little in the way of things that will reduce the results or send them backwards (getting lazy, drinking too much, sleeping too little, or not taking good general care of myself). I like who and what I am when my body is a fine tuned machine, much better than when I am letting myself go.

Oops- I have two more days of paddling and the water is up- time for Nile special!

I’m back.

Nile special was awesome today- just a tad too low for getting on without a rope, and green and tall!

Wow- big moves, fast fun surfing, loving life out there.

Tonight was a final’s party for the Jackson Kayak team. The bar was open, an “overland truck” was here, and the music was playing in good form. Ruth and Emily made a Watermelon with Ruth’s birthday present (bottle of tequila) properly laid out in it. They took the afternoon off and celebrated a long training period together. Luckily for Emily, she doesn’t like Tequila so she stayed in good form. Meanwhile, I managed to trade Geckos and tree frogs for drinks, no kidding. I would catch a tree frog or gecko (lizard) and offer it to a random person in exchange for a shot of Amarula (yummy fruit cream drink) and the little guy would provide more than enough amusement for the shot. The traditional “finals party” that is usually celebrated after the finals of a major event (world cup, world championships) is also often part of our “finals” of any major undertaking, such as the finishing of a new video, a major training trip, or some big accomplishment at home. It isn’t over the top, but more like letting our hair down for a night. Emily is part of the adult crowd in my eyes and I no longer see any reason to treat her differently than an adult. She certainly has earned the title of adult on her own, regardless of her age.

It is nearly midnight and I am still awake, a ‘big deal’ for me, but it is bedtime now.

Final Day of Africa- what is it all about. Final opportunity to get better at wave surfing here on the Nile before heading back to the USA, and then up to winter wonderland (Canada) for the World Championships. I hope my cold weather gear is ready to go. Mittens, skull cap, Patagonia Dry top with a Mountain Surf Skirt, thick Patagonia fleece pants and top, etc. I am very ready to go home. I miss my lovely wife like crazy. I miss working with my friends that make up the Jackson Kayak staff, dealers, customers, schools, etc. I miss my home, my dogs, and my bed. I will only be home for 10 days before hitting the road for the summer in the RV. Luckily for me, the RV is also home, the bed in it feels like home, and it tends to be parked in prime real estate. Kristine and the kids make anywhere home. I would have felt much more at home here with Kristine being here, but this trip has had much value to me as a father alone with his kids and I don’t regret this opportunity. It is moments like this, in our final day on the river, but being so far away from home in space and time, that I start looking forward to making the journey quickly. A teleporter would be perfect. There will be some good in the travels again, I am sure. It takes two days to get back to DC, and then 12 hours of driving to get home from there. All of this time, with Emily, Dane, and Nick in close quarters, means plenty of time to reflect on our trip. Our computer batteries will die early on in the trip, and we’ll start reading books, talking, and playing games.

If there is one thing I know for sure, that is that the group of people I am here with, my team of paddlers, will do a great job all season. Dane is already making the next “All-Star Promo video” for the website with the new footage, on his own, with no prompting from anyone. Nick and Joel both have awesome videos to put up on the website as well that they made here. Ruth and Emily are excited about teaching clinics to women and making the paddling world a better place by being who they are. Stephen is already back in Washington, DC teaching clinics, showing a slide show of photos that will blow you away. He has become an incredible photographer and uses his skills constantly to capture incredible images.

All of our kayaks, except for Ruth’s are sold here. Dane’s Shooting Star, 3 All-Stars, 2 Stars all sold and will be here on the Nile River for many years to come. The new Star series has become the boat of choice on the Nile for locals and vistors alike. I doubt Ruth will escape today without someone trying to buy her boat. It is funny to me that local Ugandan paddlers will have their 2007 Stars before Much of the USA, Europe, and Asia, etc.! That reminds me that one thing I am so excited for, and can’t wait for, is for David Knight to come watch the World Championships and get to see the new Stars and Funs in action! David has done such an incredible job in this latest round of kayaks and seeing them in action on a great wave with great paddlers is something I hope he will get as much satisfaction out of as I do. For me it is like watching my kids do something wonderful (I prefer to see my kids do something wonderful, but…).

Nico Chassing, originally from France, but now owns a rafting company on the Zambezi River (Bundu Rafting) is here with his daughter Imagine. She is awesome and 6 years old and is here with her Fun 1 kayak. Nico was 4th in the Pre-worlds in 2000 and is an awesome big wave surfer in his kayak. It was a nice surprise to see him here on next to last day. We will get to boat together tonight on the Nile Special Wave- our last time on that wave for who knows how long.

Traveling seems as though you will see the same place again soon, but you never know. Last year we filmed our Promo Video and EJ’s Playboating videos here. This year we are training for Worlds and filming for our 2007 Promo video. Next year? Not sure what the plan is yet, but much less likely that we’ll be here, only because going to the same place all of the time is not the best use of our time. Life is too short to get in a “rut”. One person’s rut is another person’s freedom, but for me there is too much ground to cover in a lifetime to run over the same ground without a really good reason to. We have many good reasons for being here this year, which is why we are here.

Another interesting event happened today. Ruth and Emily had a type of Viper called an Adder snake curled up in their rafters of their porch just over their heads. It clearly needed removed, since it is quite poisonous and could move into a gear bag or a bed at any time causing serious grief to the unlucky one who finds it. I dressed up in Dane’s Jackson Kayak hoodie, which is perfectly designed for catching poisonous snakes. It has the mitts that are not snake bite proof, but improves your chances dramatically if bitten of warding the fangs off before they hit the skin. I got a white bucket we used for a garbage can and a stick and attempted to coax it out of its spot into the bucket. It wasn’t amused and felt the need to flair up its neck and face and strike out at the stick and at me. The girls weren’t super impressed and Emily was nearly in tears as she watched her dad doing something she definitely didn’t approve of. I have always been a snake person, but haven’t had much experience lately with snakes that you really can’t afford to be bitten by. After about 5 minutes of trying to get the snake just in the right spot to drop him in the bucket, I finally was able to free him from the rafter that he was wrapped around and dropped him perfectly in the bucket. He was fully capable of getting out of the bucket which made the next step the most interesting. Running with the bucket swinging to the river and chucking it across a narrow creek to set the snake go off the island. I managed this part with only a little danger and seemed to keep the snake off balance enough to make it all of the way to the river and launched it. It tried to swim back to the island which only required a little scare tactics with the stick to change its mind. Joel took video so I imagine that it will make the promo video extras.

In the end what I am taking away from this trip is a reminder that life is to be lived to its fullest. That doing the best you can at everything you do, trying to be the best at everything you do is the only fulfilling way to live. Allowing yourself to slip and not be the person you want to be is to cheat yourself out of your own game. I feel better physically than I have in a while, and feel better mentally prepared for whatever life will bring, knowing that I am not in full control, but that which I can control I am doing the best I can and it should be enough.

The world championships will either be won by me for the 4th time, or not. Time will tell. Either way I am at peace with myself and know that I can win, which is almost as good as winning. I have won 5 out of the past 7 of the biggest international events (worlds, pre-worlds, and world cup) of the year (2000-2006). Betting on me winning this worlds is probably your safest bet, but it isn’t exactly a good bet. There are so many obstacles between the start and finish of such a major event that winning doesn’t always go to the most likely to win person. I am in the event because I want to compete in it, not because I want to win it. There is a big distinction and it makes it fun for me. I love prelims, quarter finals, semi-finals, and finals. I love the opening ceremonies, award ceremonies, and closing ceremonies. I love the athletes, spectators, organizers, and families that are a part of the event. I love the feeling I get when I have one ride left and I am not yet winning, but have to put my best ride on the board right now to win. I love the whole process of the event, and it gives me an adrenaline shot just thinking about it here on the other side of the world from where it will all happen. I love the part where I blow my wife a kiss before each ride and she blows one right back. I love having my kids compete in the event, making it so much deeper than if it was just me.

I love my life. I am ready to get “out of Africa…”

Hopefully we can travel safe and fast, and arrive in good shape on time!

See you back in North America soon!




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Beautiful day on the water

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Dane with Water Wings

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EJ enjoying a Club, the beer the wave is named after

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Ruth in sunny paradise

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See what EJ caught

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Team JK swimming