It was eight whole days of learning to let go and live in the moment.
Eight days pushing beyond what you think you can do.
Eight days of enjoying the thunderous laughter, deep sleep and simple bliss that comes with it all.
It was the first of many kayak instruction weeks on the Rogue River, and the bar was set high.
Working with Sundance Kayak School and Northwest Rafting Co., the Wet Planet kayak instructors (later named Bullseye, Wolverine and She-Hulk) traveled down to southern Oregon for a week of warm water, riverside camping, and the best environment to teach anyone how to kayak.
Starting It Off Slow
For the first two days, 10 completely novice kayakers (except for the 3 siblings who had taken a course with Sundance years ago) took the time to get to know their kayaks. They learned about edges, angles, and T-rescues, not yet comprehending that in another 6 days they would find themselves charging through class III rapids, rolling themselves up, or maintaining their edge control in “the coffee pot” in Mule Creek Canyon.
To butter them up even more, Sundance even brought in two massage therapists to relieve those new tight muscles. Everyone slept well, enjoying their last night in a bed for a while.
Waking up to an additional three intermediate kayak students and one more instructor, the group suddenly became the largest kayak instruction course Wet Planet has seen in a while: 5 instructors, 13 students, and 4 raft-support guides.
The Unknown Ahead
Pushing off, rafts fully-loaded and the group all together for the first time, may have been a scary moment. Many participants had never been on a multi-day rafting trip, let alone a multi-day kayak course.
However, the instructors and raft guides knew better.
They coaxed them through Hellgate Canyon, the first of many narrow canyons and swirly boils. After the initial spike in adrenaline levels, most kayakers were then able to relax.
The 6th Sense of Kayak Instructors
What they may not have known is that we instructors had already turned on our 6th sense: omniscient group awareness.
We had begun to target individuals and pick apart their learning style. Lance, Drew, JR, Nathan, and I paid special attention to escalating fears and teachable moments. Looking back, however, it was probably our own enthusiasm from teaching with each other on one of the most spectacular Wild and Scenic Rivers in the country that helped keep the positivity high.
JR opportunistic sense and extensive knowledge of kayaking on the Rogue River helped him to use every river feature to his advantage.
A small wave with wide eddy access: perfect intro to surf.
A deep eddy with slow current: a fitting location for paddling on an edge and entering a new current.
An ammo can and throw rope: perfect ingredients for classic multi-day rafting entertainment.
Drew’s tractor-beam sense brings in the more analytical thinkers of the group for his detailed descriptions of strokes and concepts. He dives deep into the sport, slowly revealing his ture passion (obsession) for kayaking. Soon, it spreads to everyone.
Lance’s sense manifested as a keen cognizance of when to take it easy. A seemingly natural state of mind, “taking it easy” doesn’t always come natural when learning to kayak. We tense-up, get nervous, and sometimes let our minds spin out of control. Lance just ropes it back in, making jokes left and right.
Nathan’s sense may be the most potent of them all. By simply looking at Nathan, his sense takes hold of your apprehension and fear and flips it around to comfort and excitement. Might be something to do with the smile.
Me, I just fill in the gaps. I aim to motivate and inspire and I’d like to think that my 6th sense has something to do with that. I set an example of pushing beyond comfort zone and have fun doing it. Jimmy had a bad day so I helped him find his mantra. Uncle Bill needed a cheerleader to whisper in his ear through the rapids. I even got to be Cathy’s target through some of the wave-trains.
It Just Keeps Getting Better
Glow-in the dark Frisbee.
Cliff jumping in a tropical pool on Mule Creek.
Fresh mint for Sundance Signature Mohitos.
Stand-Up Paddle boarding at camp.
Gratuitous fist pumping.
With every day, the group molded more into a crazy family. Everyone extended support when needed, while others tested their skills in new waters. We had all done something amazing together, and we didn’t hesitate to celebrate every chance we got.
You know it is a good trip with the hardest part are the goodbyes.