Hi All, I’m from the mountains of northern New York. I grew up ski racing, and about 12 years ago my mom signed me up for whitewater kayaking through a local outing club thinking it was for flat water kayaking. It was all down river from there! I love northern New York, however, the short whitewater kayaking season in New York wasn’t enough to satisfy my need for whitewater. So, my last two years of high school I attended World Class Academy, a private traveling high school that travels the world introducing students to international kayaking, kiteboarding, climbing, travel, and cultural immersion. World Class Academy kayaking students paddle daily, while also working on a rigorous classroom curriculum. This program enabled me to travel all over the world to kayak; Nepal, Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Quebec, British Columbia, and all over the Pacific Northwest. After graduating, I knew that the PNW was where I wanted to call home, so I decided to begin my career as a guide on the Wenatchee River in Leavenworth, Washington. After a couple of seasons, I moved to White Salmon for better access to more varied and consistent whitewater.
I took a short hiatus from guiding and kayaking to try doing some “real work”, but found I was missing my time on the river. I couldn’t be more excited to be teaching kayaking and guiding on the White Salmon River once again. There’s nothing better to me than instructing and guiding all summer and traveling to Ecuador to kayak and explore new rivers all winter. If I’m not in Ecuador, chances are I’m in the mountains skiing.
I’ve always been quite competitive and like to push myself and see what I’m capable of accomplishing. After falling off the kayak train for a couple seasons, I was itching to get back in my boat. I was worried however, that I wouldn’t be able to come back as strong as I once was when I was putting in 150+ days a year on the water. So, I set the goal of competing in the North Fork Championship “the unofficial biggest race of the year”. To compete in the NFC these days, it takes more than being just a world-class paddler and showing up. You must want it bad and be willing to put the time in to earn it. If you aren’t pushing yourself, fine tuning your boat control and forward paddle stroke… you simply don’t have a chance.
Getting my own skills up to speed in order to compete with some of the best paddlers in the world reinvigorated my passion for kayak instruction. One of my favorite parts of instructing all Wet Planet’s kayaking courses is helping skilled kayakers fine-tune their skills. You can always improve your forward stroke! My absolute part of kayaking and instructing is overnight trips.
Overnight trips are some of the most fun you can have kayaking. There’s nothing like cramming all the essentials into your boat and then filling the rest up with as much food as possible. This past year I managed to spend about 14 nights on the river. The rivers I paddled included the Colorado River through Utah’s Westwater Canyon, the Selway River, three South Fork Salmon River trips, and one epic Marsh Creek, Middle Fork Salmon River and Main Salmon River trip spanning six days and 200+ miles!
I’m looking forward to share this experience this summer and show people the big water that Idaho and the Main Salmon have to offer. Our Main Salmon River Idaho Kayak Trip is coming up on August 25 and I could not be more excited. On this trip, we offer low instructor-to-student ratios on what we call a “full-immersion kayak vacation.” Each kayaker has six days in nature, not thinking about anything else but kayaking all day and soaking up the adventure all evening before prepping to do it all over again the next day.
Whether you’re a beginner or a highly skilled kayaker, I urge you to join me on the river for some private instruction or a boofing or creeking clinic. Not a kayaker yet? No problem. I’d love to take you down the White Salmon River, Klickitat River, Tieton River, or the more adventurous Class V Wind River and Class V Farmlands Section of the White Salmon River in a raft.
Sean Madden is a kayak instructor course lead and a raft trip guide and trip leader at Wet Planet. Originally from northern New York, Sean has kayaked all over the world and competed in the North Fork Championship the last several years. When he’s not in his kayak or guiding a raft, you can find Sean skiing in the mountains. You can request Sean on any rafting trip or kayak course Wet Planet offers including beginner essential skills kayak courses and advanced skills clinics.