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We decided to head back to Africa this year with the excuse that we would be training for the World Championships. To be honest I would probably have gone regardless of whether we were going to ‘train’ or not. I just love the White Nile and Africa.

Now when I say Africa I am really talking about the White Nile in Uganda. When people ask me about the Africa, or Uganda, the most common question I get is, “what is it like?” To be completely honest, it is pretty much a whole different world. Poverty is the norm, bikes and walking are probably the main sources of transportation, fallowed by taxi-scooters and vans. Clean drinking water is hard to come by. The majority of laundry is washed in the river, right beside where we go kayaking. Monkeys roam free. All in all it is very different from my upbringing in Canada, and life traveling in the United States.

Though my favorite part of Africa, even more than the amazing whitewater and plethora of big waves, is the local children.  Somehow with nothing they are truly happy, something that is hard to find in our common life in North America.

While training for the Worlds this year I have had a slight injury, pulling my hip-flexer, which has kept me off the water for a couple days. I was still able to kayak for most of my trip and I was even able to work on some new moves and combos with Dane. The two of us have been trying some more airscrew combos and finally starting to dial in the ‘Back Airscrew’.

Though with my time off the water I got a fair amount of time to hang out with the local kids at ‘Super Hole’. The kids were really fun, and loved to paddle my kayak around while I was on the shore watching/coaching/filming. I took pictures of them, and just hung out with them. It was amazing to see how little it would take to make them smile. We would then pay them each 200 Ugandan shillings, which is 8 cents, to carry a paddle or boat or our gear back to the car. One day while talking to one of the kids, who was and orphan (his parents died from AIDS), I asked how he supported himself. He replied with the little English he knew, that he worked digging and carrying our kayaks to make money. This really touched me. Hanging out, paddling around in the eddy, swimming and goofing around is what he was looking forward to in the morning.

All of this touched me pretty deeply and when I asked Jessie Stone what we could do for these kids, she replied with “What these kids really need is to be loved.” That thought is what really made me thankful for my life and what I have.

When I left Africa I left all my clothes except what I wore onto the plane, I left my football with some kids, and gave each one of me new friends from Super Hole a new Adidas shirt, which they were excited to receive. I left the White Nile with some amazing surfs, a couple big tricks, a hard drive full of footage, and a luggage bag empty with my heart full. I can’t wait to go back.

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