People continually pass in and out of our lives. They inspire, impact, and motivate us to be the best version of ourselves. In my seventeen years, numerous people have changed me; countless individuals have taken their time to give me advice, shown me kindness, and lead me through the mysteries of life. My whitewater family at Wet Planet has had one of the greatest impacts. These kind, inspiring, funny, loving individuals are continually motivating, encouraging, and fueling my passion. They have become mentors and friends, and have inspired me to be a mentor to the next generation of whitewater kayakers.
When I started kayaking, Wet Planet friends and instructors such as Sarah Newgard, Scott Elliot, Bruce Keller, Megan Salomoi, Jeff Clewell, and Devin Kuh all spent hours teaching me and passing along their passion for kayaking. All of them took a genuine interest not only in my kayaking, but in me as an individual. As I have begun to teach and mentor people in my own life, I have reflected a lot on how impactful my mentors have been. Just by watching these skilled paddlers, I found myself absorbing their techniques. Aside from teaching and motivating me, these individuals set an example of what a good mentor should be: kind, patient, encouraging, positive, and a friend.
I have spent the large majority of my time paddling with adults. I used to find this extremely intimidating and struggled to relate because we were in such different stages of life. Over time, I found myself making connections, finding inspiration, reflecting on the words of wisdom, and seeking advice from these people who had so much more life experience than myself. Despite the age gap, these individuals became close friends. It was a reminder that you can find inspiration and friendship within any relationship.
One of my most impactful mentors is Anna Wagner. Anna is a professional kayaker from California, has kayaked across the globe, and was the first female kayaker to become a photo boater on the Class V Tuolomne river. Anna walked into my life when I could comfortably kayak class 3 rapids on the White Salmon River. Since then, she has significantly helped me step up both my physical skills and my mental game. Any kayaker will tell you mindset has a huge impact on how well you kayak. Having someone there to celebrate the successes, be there when I fall down, remind me that I am good enough, and set an example of who I aspire to be has absolutely changed my life. Anna has helped make me a more confident person and kayaker. Watching her approach rapids that I find terrifying with such ease and steaze gives me the extra boost of confidence I need to have a good line on the rapid. From pep talks to notes of encouragement, she defines what a good mentor should look like.
Everyone needs a mentor like Anna in their lives; someone to help give them a little bit of extra inspiration and encouragement. They may just be a mentor in one realm of life, but it inspires so much more. Having had countless mentors, nothing is more important to me than paying forward what I have been given. The people who have helped me have never asked for anything in return and I aspire to do the same for others in my life. In moments when I feel impatient or frustrated with someone I am mentoring, I draw on my past experiences. I remind myself of the never-ending patience and kindness I have been shown; it always gives me a surge of inspiration, leaving me ready to mentor with a positive, loving attitude.
This summer I had one of my first opportunities to share my love of whitewater kayaking with the next generation. While volunteering at the Wet Planet Kids Kayaking Camp on the Klickitat River, I was continually inspired by the excitement and joy that the kids had for everything -from singing in the car to running class one rapids, joy and laughter was continually present. While teaching, the goal is always to inspire and impact, but I found myself equally inspired by my students. I aspire to be as joyful, enthusiastic, and excited for the adventure of life as the kids who I worked with. Even though I was the one who was supposed to be inspiring and mentoring, I felt privileged to learn and grow with these kids. It was yet another reminder that you can find inspiration in any relationship.
In that moment I realized how amazing mentorship truly is. When you touch someone’s life through teaching or sharing a passion, both of you learn and grow. As a mentee, you get to learn from those with exceptional wisdom and experience. As a mentor, you find beauty in the excitement of the first successes and are reminded of the importance of the small accomplishments. The more I am inspired by my mentors, the more I encourage love and positivity with my mentees, and influence a cycle of positivity for everyone. I’m looking forward to continuing to be a mentor to my students, teaching next season’s Kids Kayaking Camps and Beginner Kayaking Courses at Wet Planet!
Author Naomi has worked on the Wet Planet Cafe & Grill’s team the last three summers. As you already know, she loves kayaking, and plans to instruct for Wet Planet when she turns 18. If you haven’t been following Naomi’s kayaking journey, you can check out her previous blog here!