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After nearly two decades of working in a retail paddlesports shop, four years ago, I turned in my notice. This was quickly followed by a move to the mountains of Idaho, where I began my lifelong dream of living on a river.

Then, COVID happened, kayak sales soared, my partner Melissa and I loaded up the RV and headed back to our former home of Oklahoma. I lived in the parking lot of our Tulsa store, where I would bath credit cards and door knobs in hand sani for the next nine months. Melissa was doing the same at our Oklahoma City shop.

Eventually, we would return home to our overgrown lawn and dead garden plants, grateful for the industry saving sales boost and glad to be able to help out our coworkers through the tumultuous times. But, indeed, we were glad to be home.

By April of this year, we had already been back to Oklahoma several times. My goal after the last visit was to spend this summer kayaking and rafting on my home river, the Payette, rather than telling tired, kayak jokes to prospective buyers. When asked when I was going back to Oklahoma, my reply was, “no time soon.”

“Hey Dave, this is Emily, we wanna come visit.” The message was brief, but my mind was racing. I had dated an “Emily” a decade prior, but it was the “we” part that really had me nervous. I glanced at the caller ID and was instantly relieved and grateful that the call came from a 931 prefix, one I recognized, Sparta, Tennessee, the home of Jackson Kayak. After a moment of gratefulness that an old flame was not trying to visit, child in tow, I called Emily Jackson back. “Heck yeah, we would love to have a world champion visit.”

Three world champions to be exact. Yep, she was dragging along her husband Nick Troutman, and Jr. World Champion, Mason Hargrove and family too.

Here is where I am going to hurt some feelings. The other world renowned visitors coming was cool, but Emily was my dream guest. We have been lucky enough to have Jackson Kayak bring the top names in the biz in recent years. My goal for getting Emily Jackson to visit was to supercharge and inspire the humungous group of ladies from Oklahoma who are new entrants to the sport of whitewater. I beg to say, that we now have more gals actively paddling whitewater than men. Emily would be the perfect star paddler to stoke their flames.

We were up against a few hurdles, a very short notice of their impending visit, graduation weekend, and construction delays at the whitewater park, but, we were pretty sure that the free clinics would be a complete success. When Nick, Emily, the Hargroves, and 8 children made the planned 8 a.m. breakfast rendezvous, on time, we were confident that nothing could derail the event.

After convincing Tucker and Parker Jackson that Coco the giant, live rooster at the vegan coffee house, was in fact not real, but a giant robot chicken, (controlled by a remote inside a tiny pillow at the restaurant hostess stand), we proceeded to figure out what everyone wanted to order for breakfast. Imagine their surprise, when I revealed that the 8 kids would instead be sharing the tiny pack of pretzels leftover from my Southwest Airlines flight. Not kidding, they were excited to rip into this sucker.

Day one of clinics was a Friday, which worried me since school and work obligations may hurt attendance. The kayaking with kids clinic was so packed out with children, we had to commandeer more pool lanes multiple times.

I have been to quite a few of these events. Here is what amazed me. Two hours into the program, these kiddos from age 2 to 12 were all still engaged. As a matter of fact, they were more than disappointed when told we needed to end the clinic for our lunch. Several kids got their roll, many overcame fears, and parents and grandparent observers were delighted as kids paddled all over that pool in boats sized just for them.

Day two, albeit at a lake rather than the whitewater park, also a resounding success. And boy oh boy, did we have a lot of women in attendance. The attitude and kindness of our hardworking crew was matched with the enthusiasm of participants with their varied skill levels and goals. I secretly was glad for the last minute flatwater lake venue, as it certainly was better for learning than a swift moving set of rapids.

Many of our star visitors come with charisma, mad skills and more. The Hargroves, and Jackson-Troutmans, possess all this, but they excel in relating to child, man, or woman in a very down to earth and genuine manner.

The rest of the clinics were equally successful. Many folks capped it off with their first boat or a new one in their fleet. I got to accomplish a personal first, paddling a Jackson around in my boat.

Kindness and reassurance go a long way in this world. This was our first event, post elections, Covid, etc, and never has the smiling face of stars guest, their childrens, volunteers, or our happy participants been more welcome.

Thank you,

Dave Lindo

OKC 405 23-KAYAK (405-235-2925)
TULSA 918-298-4577
CELL 405 830-9689