Healthcare workers have been experiencing unprecedented stress and trauma during the COVID-19 pandemic. As we know all too well, there is no better way to destress than spending a couple of days on the river. Time on the river with those who are sharing similar stresses and anxieties is the perfect way to begin healing and processing the difficult year that healthcare workers in particular have felt so strongly. Every year for the past 10 years, Wet Planet has joined forces with First Descents to offer whitewater kayaking courses for young adults who have been impacted by cancer. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, First Descents pivoted to meet the need at hand. Enter – the Hero Recharge programs! This year, First Descents and Wet Planet offered weekend retreats for healthcare workers who have been on the frontlines of the pandemic.

First Descents

Photo by First Descents

Over the course of two weekends, 40 healthcare workers were able to challenge themselves and experience the magic of the river over the course of two days on the river. The first day was spend rafting the White Salmon River, and the second day was spend sit-on-top kayaking on the Klickitat River. They ended their days at the Society Hotel with yoga and spa time. Wet Planet guides and instructors shared their love of the river with these nurses, doctors, and first responders, while First Descents staff facilitated the experience off the water. These weekends were truly a time to recharge and reenergize with time on the river!

Having a blast on the White Salmon with Giani

The Wet Planet guides and instructors look forward to the annual First Descents programs as a chance to give back and help share the “healing power of adventure.” This year was no exception! Here’s what our staff said about the Hero Recharge weekends:

Wet Planet Kayak School Manager Haley has taught First Descents kayaking programs at Wet Planet since 2018. Haley said “It has been cool to see FD back out on the water and adapting and adding to their program by giving healthcare workers an opportunity to relax and have fun. The past year was challenging, and they worked hard to support and care for the people impacted by COVID. It is awesome to have a way to say thanks, and do some stress-relief fun time on the wonderful place that is the river.”

Klickitat River Sit on Top Kayaking

Surfing while kayaking on the Klickitat River. Photo by First Descents

Kayak Instructor Kelcey said, “The First Descents crews bring a whole new level of energy out on to the river. It is always wonderful to share whitewater with people, but it feels especially fun this year. The river provides a beautiful escape and it was impactful and downright fun to bring that experience to our medical heroes. Rain or shine, we all had an exciting time sharing knowledge, learning new things about ourselves and splashing around in the beautiful Klickitat.”

Having fun by the river! Photo by First Descents

Claire joined the Wet Planet Team in 2021, so this was her first experience with First Descents. “It has been such an amazing experience to show healthcare workers down the river because they clearly have such physical and mental fortitude. They face a challenging whitewater environment with tenacity, conquering their fears while celebrating the natural beauty of the river. It is a privilege for me to bring the magic of whitewater to our healthcare heroes. First Descents facilitates an experience that celebrates inner confidence, natural environments, and a meaningful journey for all. It is an honor to contribute to such a powerful, fun, healing process.”

Enjoying the beautiful rolling hills of the Klickitat River. Photo by First Descents

The whole Wet Planet team truly enjoyed facilitating the First Descents Hero Recharge programs for healthcare workers. We always aim to share our love of the river and create impactful whitewater experiences, so it felt especially important to share our passion with healthcare workers who have faced so many challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are already looking forward to next year’s First Descents trips!

Author Sharon Saltoon is a kayak instructor and Communications Manager at Wet Planet. She loves being a part of the team at Wet Planet and sharing her love of whitewater on and off the river!