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This past summer I celebrated my 10th year since first getting in a whitewater kayak. Though I still feel like I have so much to learn, I thought I would share some of my favorite things that I’ve learned since I started this wild journey that is paddling.

You’re never too cool to teach a newbie

I have always enjoyed teaching others about kayaking and passing on what I’ve learned from others, but I think it’s especially true the more experience you have. I’ve always stood by the fact that if you truly love the sport of whitewater kayaking, then you owe to other boaters to help them paddle safely and have as much fun as you do. I think this helps keep your humility in check as well, and when done in a respectful way, it helps you grow your circle of boating friends.

Paddler’s dogs give life meaning

This one doesn’t need much of an explanation. I happened to pick up a dog myself this year, and I find people are much more likely to talk to you when you have a cute dog at your side.

Dry out your gear

Personally, I’m a big fan of doing my laundry in a solar powered manner, with the hood of my truck being the best spot to dry out pretty much anything. However, you will never regret bringing in your gear overnight to dry, especially when you live somewhere where the temperature can dip below freezing at night. Going to paddle and finding your skirt in a contorted frozen ball is amusing to you and your friends, but is a totally avoidable situation, and well worth the extra effort. I’m including this on the list as a reminder to myself as much as anything.

River stink eventually becomes a charming scent

After 10 years of kayaking, the familiar stench of the river becomes a welcome scent and those who are troubled by it have usually distanced themselves from you a while ago. Those who matter don’t mind and those who mind don’t matter. That quote is about smelly gear right?

Bring a throw bag

Just do it. It’s a part of your kit. Nobody wants to paddle with someone who doesn’t bring one. Learn how to use it from someone qualified.

Bring snacks

There is no higher station than that of the member of the paddling crew who brings snacks to the river.

If it’s worth boating, it’s worth boating with friends

The people that I have met are what has made kayaking an essential part of my life, and many of them are people that I am bonded with for life. There’s nothing quite like having boating stories with people you’ve known for years.

Suns out guns out*

*as long as it is safe to do so
If the sun is shining, so too should those buff paddling arms.

Be kind to yourself

Kayaking is hard, and I don’t think enough people talk about that. It’s a sport that has very little crossover from other sports, and it’s a dynamic environment that can be terrifying for some. Everyone has their own progression, and there’s no sense comparing yourself to others. If it’s not fun, why are you doing it?

Have fun

Finding something you’re passionate about is a gift in itself. Never take time on the river for granted, and have fun.

See you on the river!