Select Page

As kayakers, we tend to need whitewater the most when everything goes wrong and we need an outlet or relief from our daily lives. Few of us are able to escape the “real world” even as sponsored kayakers because we still have to get day jobs and exist in society in between trips. But for us, those trips, canyons, expeditions, vacations, and rapids provide a momentary sanctuary from the overwhelming and sometimes overbearing world around us. Unfortunately for me and my wife Samantha, living in Memphis meant that kayaking could only happen when we could afford to drive/travel at least 4 or 5 hours ONE WAY. Our world crashed down again after Colorado this year leading to a series of changes that made me need the river more than ever. I was immediately laid off as a teacher in Memphis City Schools with nearly 1000 others, spaced out strategically in hopes not to make the news. I nearly broke my neck video skydiving as my parachute opened too hard/fast, causing two herniated discs and temporary paralysis on my right side and SEVERE pain… another job gone and more medical bills. The resulting issues forced us to move out of our home and to seek other options. Just as we couldn’t handle more, we had an opportunity to move to Nashville for Samantha’s “day career” and just as we took it, we each lost a grandparent. After months of trials, heart-ache, and thirst we had a big move and two funerals within 24 hours… the rivers ran the whole time. All this to explain that I needed a release possibly more than ever, as only a kayaker can truly understand.

Finally my good friends from Memphis, Drew Armstrong, Kevin Wilson, and Jonathan Street, offered to pick me up from my new home in Nashville on their way to the Upper Caney Fork. I can’t even describe my excitement as I hopped in the truck between 9 and 10 AM with my good friends on our way to a river!!! Meeting up with us was a group of friends from Chattanooga and Jackson Kayak’s own factory guy, Jeff Leach in the new Zen prototype. I met Jeff in Colorado this summer on some high water runs of OBJ so I was pumped to find out he had moved to Cookeville and started working at the Jackson Kayak Factory.

The river was a bit lower than expected and it was a sunny, chilly day, but my excitement was nearly uncontainable as we geared up for my first river in months. The moment I hit the water my frustrations, disappointments, troubles, stress, sadness, and overwhelming feeling of claustrophobia in life were finally washed away. All I could feel was what every kayaker longs to feel, sunshine, surging cold water, and a slight breeze as we moved downstream. HEAVEN!

We ended the trip with homemade pizza and beer at my house by 6:30 at night! Things are finally looking up and the relief is unbelievable… I think as kayakers we all understand that for us, this is the most valuable asset of our sport, sanity. While the public of the “real world” seems to think we’re insane, we learn in the sport that it actually keeps us sane, balanced, and smiling through life since we experience it straight from the source.

The best part is that many more are on the way!