Whitewater Kayaking Adventures

“If not now, when?

If not you, who?”

― Hillel the Elder

I’ve always loved being near water. I can remember long summer days by the creek. My sister and I would see how far we could go and where we would end up just by following the Quitty.

I never had thought about actually swimming or tubing in the creek. I wasn’t an adventurous kid.  Now, as an adult, I am spending much more time in nature, and doing things that I have never done.

Kayaking is something I feel I’d really enjoy, but I’ve been so afraid after my bout in the Susquehanna River when I fell in and was stuck trying to paddle/swim upstream in the current at night. I wanted to try again this summer but decided to get schooled by professionals. So I signed up for a 2-day kayaking class. Oh, and did I mention it was in whitewater? A friend of mine who does a lot of kayaking recommended the Northeast PA Kayak School in Lehighton, where he teaches classes. I signed up and booked in March for my class in May.

My first biggest fear was not being strong enough to kayak. So to get stronger, I hired a trainer, for five weeks. Fast forward to the day of the class, and I had built up some arm strength but I was feeling really anxious.

A friend once told me that I was fearless. I didn’t understand that fully until this class. Being fearless isn’t not being afraid, it’s being fearful, and doing something anyway.

“Let everything happen to you
Beauty and terror
Just keep going
No feeling is final”
― Rainer Maria Rilke

I arrived at the lake we trained in on the first day. By far, the calm water was inviting and not nearly as scary as the rapids of the whitewater. I was still somehow fearful of not being able to get out of this kayak. Doug Bowman, our guide and instructor is a full-time teacher and has been teaching kayaking here for 20 years. His calming and comical voice helped keep me calm while we practiced.

The most important thing we learned that day, was exiting the kayak but if you can master the Eskimo roll, that’s even better. I struggled with that as it was later in the day, and the water was still really cold since it was late spring. We learned about maneuvering in the water and how to identify the eddy lines, lean into turns and use our paddle to direct the kayak.

Sunday morning we arrived at the center and our kayaks were ready to go, we geared up and I decided I wanted to wear a wet suit. We put in in Jim Thorpe and started off slow, stopping in large eddy’s to practice. We traveled across the current, practicing how to paddle and which direction is most effective. I wanted to shoot video from the kayak, but when we started I noticed that the camera mount on the kayak I was using was broken. Doug offered to mount my camera on his helmet. So the video and photo I have from that weekend was from his point of view. But it allowed for some great shots of me kayaking.

Being in the water, I felt better than before. The more I go, the more familiar it is, and the less scary. I’ve been trying to do the scary thing so much more often. Because as painful or uncomfortable it is, I’m glad I’ve stepped a bit more outside of my comfort zone. That’s what living is, and that’s what life is. I spent too many years in front of a TV being a bump on a log and watching other people experience life and watching fiction.

As a writer and journalist, I wanted to take on this experience. I want to shift from the observer to the adventurer. This isn’t the scariest thing I could do, and it isn’t really even that dangerous. I learned out to get out of the kayak, and that was really the biggest piece. The rest comes with time, awareness, and practice.

A powerful takeaway for me is that back in January I created a vision board with a female kayaker on it. I’ve looked at that vision board every day. I know that it’s thanks to believing in myself that I could even do this in the first place.

Powerful, what can change if I put my mind, and intention into doing something!



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