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2019 has been my best year of paddling so far. However‍, I haven’t run any new rivers yet, I haven’t had any breakthroughs in my freestyle tricks or paddling technique, and I haven’t paddled anything that really challenges my paddling ability. What have I been doing?

I’ve dedicated my time to sharing what it is that I already know, and bringing in the people I love so that they can share my passion for kayaking. It’s actually a pretty selfish pursuit. I’ve been training up my friends so that I have more fun people to paddle with. However, it has been extremely rewarding and fulfilling to see their faces light up when they feel the same magic of the river that I’ve been chasing for the past nine years.

It’s the reason we all kayak. If you’ve never felt it, it’s almost impossible to explain, but if you have experienced it, then it needs no explanation. It’s the thing that brings us back to the same rivers and the same places with the same people, time and time again, but also emboldens us to venture out and push our comfort zones and experience new rivers. No matter what flowing river we put our boat into, we know we will experience that magic that lives in every eddy, wave, and hole. The river is the provider, the great teacher, and the ultimate metaphor.

When my friend Whitney approached me this past winter, looking to get into whitewater kayaking, I had my doubts. First of all, it was the middle of winter, so any kayaking prospects seemed months away, especially for someone who had almost no kayaking gear and no reliable roll. However, I was intrigued by her passion and attitude to pick up a new water sport just as the rivers were freezing over.

Whitney and I went to several pool sessions, and by the end of the second session, she was already hand rolling and paddle rolling like nobody’s business. The natural talent and athleticism that she had for kayaking gave me some confidence that she would be okay to take on some whitewater.

So we left the pool, and headed to the river, where we were greeted by icebergs and not much else. I’ll never forget the smiles that her and I had beaming across our faces when we realized that we had just embarked on something real and long-lasting; for her, a call to the river that was new and exciting, and for me, a rekindling of my long time love for the magic of whitewater.

From then on, we have been shredding rivers non-stop, finding any and every excuse to go find our medicine that flows freely through the landscapes. Whitney and I have talked many times about how kayaking is something that we need. Being out on the water transcends the concept of a simple hobby or pastime, but rather it’s something that provides guidance, direction and purpose in our lives. For me, teaching and sharing the knowledge that the river has given me has been one of the greatest blessings I’ve received.