I thrust my paddle into the water, one more stroke; the most important stroke, the only one I can’t miss. I pull the blade into the water, forcing my knees and toes forward, driving my hips off the waterfall. For a split second I fly. Adrenaline rushes through my veins, gravity no longer holds me, I am floating free – then the crash as I land smack at the base of the waterfall, the water churns around me begging to flip me over, but one paddle stroke at a time I paddle away. Until next time, Husum, until next time.
A Passion for Whitewater Begins
I am Naomi. I have always been a goal setter, a dream chaser, and a go getter. At sixteen years old I soar through life, searching for adventure. I love the outdoors; hiking, biking, swimming, camping, but above all I love whitewater kayaking.
Kayaking is my favorite pastime and my go-to activity. It quenches my thirst for adventure and thrill-seeking while simultaneously relieving stress in my life and bringing me inner peace. There are countless ways to run a river from attempting tricks, running waterfalls, pushing to run the hardest lines, or simply seeking to master technique. I am always seeking to improve, driven to reach the next level. Kayaking is a sport in which failure is the key to your success. There are thousands of ways to fail, but very few to succeed. You encounter failure after failure, yet each time you fix something another problem problem pops up. But after the many failures there is one magical moment of success and understanding of what it feels like to execute the move correctly. After that moment you strive to get that feeling again; practicing until finally your tongue tastes hints of success. That striving for success is what is so addictive for me.
It’s been about three years since I first tasted the world of Whitewater and two since my first kayaking trips. At fourteen I was desperate for a job, but growing up in a very tiny town, Husum, WA, made finding one incredibly difficult. With a population of only 400 people, no grocery store, no coffee shops, and no gas stations, my employment options were limited. Except for the rafting company.
On an early spring day when the rains were still pouring and the sign “Wet Planet Whitewater Center…open” had began to flash on, I walked in, searching for the boss. I explained that I was 14 and wanted a job. Though I did not know it at the time, that was the beginning of one of the most life-altering times of my life. I would spend the next three summers working at the Wet Planet Café & Grill. After two years of washing dishes, I moved into kitchen and began working back of house, preparing farm-to-table meals for our rafting guests, fellow aspiring kayakers, and non-rafting visitors.
The people at Wet Planet are the nicest and most personable people I have ever met. They are incredibly generous and filled with passion for whitewater. It was in the Wet Planet instructional pool that I began my kayaking adventures and along the way I have had countless people teach me and guide me through the world of whitewater. From my first rolls to my first waterfall to my first run on the Orletta section of the White Salmon River Wet Planet staff have aided me, encouraged me and guided me. I have had countless people change their plans in order to take me on an adventure that wasn’t much to them, but was life altering to me. Each and everyone of them have taught me something special about kayaking and helped me discover who I am as a person; unintentionally handing their passion for whitewater to the next generation. My stoke for kayaking, passed on by employees of Wet Planet, has spread to many of my fellow high schoolers.
A Lifelong Passion for Improvement & Growth
I could never get tired of kayaking and I will always have a passion for whitewater. I have hundreds of rivers I want to run, skills I want to learn, and places to go. I have had the privilege to kayak with a handful of professional kayakers, and many very talented Class V boaters. Each and every one of them has inspired me to chase my dreams further and to become a Class V boater myself. My biggest goal is to attend World Class Kayak Academy, an accredited high school that teaches kids through traveling, rigorous academics, and athletics (primarily kayaking). This will be my first step in becoming a Class V kayaker and hopefully lead me to many adventures around the world.
I know that kayaking will always be my go to. Whether I need an adventure or stress relief I will always look to kayaking. Kayaking is the perfect analogy for a well-lived life; a reminder to approach life with confidence, never give up, the more positive your attitude the better the experience is, failure is only temporary, and what you put in is what you will get out. I hope that I pass on my passion for kayaking to my peers and future generations. I want to help create a positive, safe environment on and off the river.
I watch the water, waiting for the whirlpool to begin swirling. I see it; the moment to go. I drop my boat’s edge and the water pulls it under, dragging me underwater. With a quick back paddle I alter the motion and my bow is swept vertically into the air. I lay on my PFD with hands extended over my head, balancing in perfect equilibrium on the stern of my boat. The blood rushes from my legs, the cold water licks my face, and I smile. Success breathes and passion thrives.
Want to learn and grow through whitewater kayaking like Naomi? You can take the same route she did by checking out our employment opportunities. Can’t work at Wet Planet but still want to learn to kayak? Wet Planet offers dozens of 2 and 3-day beginner kayak courses throughout the spring, summer and fall, as well as private and customized instruction fully suited to your needs.