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In January, if you’d asked me to predict the overarching tone of my 2023 season, I might have answered with what may have been undeserved reservation. Coming off a series of educational and career frustrations, not to mention a vicious flare of arthritis in my back, much of my mind was occupied with the communally dreaded “life stuff.” Fortunately, with the Deschutes so close to home, I was able to satiate my thirst for the river with low water, achy, frigid laps on the local class III, and volunteering at the local university paddle club pool sessions. Never would I have expected these dark, icy excursions to be the base off which I built what has become the most cathartic, and challenging, season of my kayaking career.

By the end of January, my back pain had leveled off, and I’d rediscovered a drive to sharpen my skills – both physical and mental. The winter kicked off strong, with countless trips to the Columbia River Gorge and nearby Celestial Falls. I raced for the first time in the LW race, finishing solidly in the middle of the pack, the 3rd fastest shortboat to enter. Focusing on steep whitewater early in the year helped me recapture the mentality needed to push oneself in demanding situations.

Spring 2023 came like a swift kick in the stomach. With the tragic loss of multiple friends to the river, myself and my closest paddling companions found ourselves facing the hardest question we as kayakers often face: Why? What possesses us to pursue such objectively hazardous environments? How do we wrestle with the inherently selfish nature of solo action sports, knowing that the ultimate price can be and does get paid, leaving those around us with the aftermath? The list of answers is long. And that, in and of itself, is another answer.

With Gavin and Mike in my heart and mind, the highlight of my year, the highlight of my kayaking career, came in May. The rains came, the stars aligned, and my sights settled on Toketee Falls. Toketee felt like more than a dream come true. It felt like an opportunity of divine origin, a culmination of my entire whitewater experience, a formative moment in my life. Accomplishing this lifelong goal reminded me that dreaming big really can get you places, and began building momentum for the rest of my season.

The remainder of spring was far from devoid of opportunity. In June I embarked on a three-week road trip through Idaho and Wyoming, ticking more bucket list items off the list as I went. I spent a week on the Main Salmon, lifestyling with some of my best friends in the world before rallying to Banks and scoring T to B’s with some of my kayaking heroes. On my way to Wyoming, I took part in another paddling first for me: a commercial production for Fujifilm. This shoot was not only a great opportunity for me to check a couple more rivers off my to-do list, but also presented me with a unique opportunity to represent whitewater kayaking on an international stage.

The bucket-list checking continued throughout the summer, with trips to the High Sierras and British Columbia, all the while keeping my skills tuned close to home on the Deschutes at high water. At long last, after nearly a decade of dreaming, I was able to snag dreamy PFD’s on Upper Cherry Creek and Box Canyon of the Ashlu.

I returned home sunburnt and happily exhausted from a summer of relentless adventure, only to pile more on as I secured another commercial shoot for the fall and lead the organization of Central Oregon’s premier whitewater race: The Benham Bash (in which I scored my 3rd straight podium finish). I also scored a feature article with the Oregon Outdoor Athlete Project and wrote pieces for Kayak Session Magazine, as well as posting blog articles on the Jackson website. I’ve since started nursing school and settled into the new rhythm that comes with a change of the season.

Reflecting on the last year of paddling, I realize, humbly, that I’ve checked more items off my kayaking bucket list than over any other 12-month period since I started. Thankfully, shockingly, I’m finding myself with more free time now than I had before school, and the allure of more adventure is calling to me with the promise of autumn rains. I have my eyes on the horizon and simply cannot wait to see what the next year brings. Cheers to all, see you on the river!