This week, I had the opportunity to sit down with three more of our wonderful kayak instructors; Clay, Paul, and Christal. Clay, a graduate from Appalachian State University majored in Biological Anthropology. Since becoming a Wet Planet ACA certified kayak instructor in the spring of 2013, Clay has experienced life on the west coast, traveled to Chile, Argentina, and Ecuador, and has worked in construction back home in Georgia in-between. Paul, a graduate of Humboldt State University with a major in Environmental Science has a passion for the rivers and for whitewater. He is an ACA certified kayak instructor and a Wilderness First Responder. His passion for adventure, kayaking, and road biking led him to bike from northern California to Veracruz, Mexico this winter. Christal, a California native, studied Geography and Geology at UC Santa Barbara. Since completing the American Canoe Association kayak instructor course this spring, she has loved sharing her passion with beginner and intermediate kayakers. When she is not teaching kayaking, she is traveling the world and hitting the slopes while working at Alta,Utah. Read on and get to know these awesome, talented people a little better. They can’t wait to get on the river with you!
What does kayaking mean to you?
Clay: Kayaking means getting out into the woods in an awesome river gorge and reaping the rewards of all of my skills and experience coming together in one moment; perfecting a difficult rapid and having a sick line!
Paul: It has shaped who I am, how I live my life, and the people I surround myself with.
Christal: It means a chance to explore areas of the world that you wouldn’t be able to see any other way. It is not only a means to explore but also a way to have fun, and a great way to hang out with good people.
Besides time spent on the water, what do you love about kayaking?
Clay: I like the travel aspect of kayaking. It takes you to a lot of out there backwoods places where you would never otherwise end up. Something always goes wrong too. You get lost, the car breaks down, or you sleep on the side of the road. Going on kayaking trips is always an adventure.
Paul: I love the community it surrounds me with and the camaraderie formed between individuals.
Christal: The people. The community is great – very supportive to boaters new and old. The community is important. I like tinkering with boats and playing with my gear. For example, it’s fun to make outfitting for my Corsica.
What aspects of whitewater kayaking challenge you most? How do you overcome these challenges?
Clay: Putting on my cold, wet kayaking gear at 6:00 in the morning for a dawn patrol lap with my girlfriend. I overcome it by sheer willpower because I know once I get on the water it will be worth it!
Paul: Nerves are the most challenging part of kayaking. Keeping yourself cool, calm, and collected makes you an extremely better kayaker. Taking a couple deep breathes, admiring the beautiful place I’m in and reminding myself that I am confident and that I CAN kayak.
Christal: There are a lot of mental challenges. I don’t like to scare myself, but it does happen in whitewater. To overcome this, I have been taking a step back from kayaking and making smaller progressions rather than trying to make big ones. I push my comfort zone by making myself nervous rather than scared. In kayaking, I like to feel continuous progression. Every time I get on the water I strive to make some sort of improvement in some way.
What is your favorite memory or biggest accomplishment in your kayaking career?
Clay: The first memory that comes to mind is when I was sitting in the pool below Demshitz drop on the Rio Nevados near Pucon, Chile. It is a tall, difficult waterfall with a technical entrance, and one I had wanted to run for years. I had finally made it to Chile with my girlfriend and just a few days into the trip, I had the chance to fire it up and send it. It was awesome. It felt so good to be in South America running the amazing, clean huge waterfalls I had been seeing photos of for years; finally making my dream happen!
Paul: As an instructor I tell people to spend as much time in their boat and on the water because the reward is HUGE. My favorite memory echos this statement. One of my favorite memories in my kayaking career was the day I paddled my first continuous Class 3 section of whitewater. I had spent two summers, every day on the water, working on the basic skills of kayaking on class two with the occasional class three. This day was the most rewarding day of kayaking, I put on the “Butler” section of the Salmon River in California and immediately was confident in my abilities, in the groove, having the time of my life.
Christal: One of my favorite memories is the first time I went off a waterfall on the Kaituna River. I rolled up and knew from that moment that I was hooked on kayaking. Among many other awesome memories and moments.
Your job allows you to share one of your passions with others – sometimes with people who have never kayaked before. What is this like?
Clay: It is awesome to see people get stoked on kayaking. The best is seeing someone from an introduction to kayaking course end up buying a boat and really getting into it. Kayaking has taken me to so many incredible places and given me some awesome experiences, so helping people get into it and progress in the sport is really fulfilling.
Paul: I enjoy sharing my passion with beginners because I know from personal experience how life changing the river and this sport can be.
Christal: It’s fun and challenging. It’s really cool to see someone run a challenging rapid and be stoked on it. People are usually quite anxious for their first time down a river, so one of the biggest challenges is getting people comfortable on the river.
Author Hayley Spear spends her summers in the Columbia River Gorge and enjoys paddling, hiking, and exploring as often as she can.