The kids with instructor Jair on the river.

This week, I was able to go out to the Klickitat River with Wet Planet’s annual Kids Summer Kayak Camp. Our Kids Summer Kayak Camp is a 4-day introduction to whitewater kayaking, river safety and river fun for kids ages 9-12. I was on-site to take photos for the end-of-the-week slide show for the kids and parents. What I didn’t realize I had signed up for was a profound reminder of the joys of playing in the river as a kid. Because I had no other duties beyond capturing the memorable camp moments, I got to soak in the happiness and wonderment of being a kid at summer camp, and more specifically, a kid at summer camp kayaking on a hot summer day.

Excited to get on the river.

It’s interesting to watch kids get out of their comfort zone and push themselves to progress at something new. The campers weren’t pushing to be better than the rest, weren’t trying to impress anyone or live up to any set expectations. If anything, the kids were competing to see who could have the most fun. I’ll tell you what, I think I won. From a couple of days photographing the kids camp I learned more than a couple of new things. For one, I learned that kids leave things everywhere. When you are participating in a sport in which all the equipment is imperative to your day, you can’t lose track of anything, especially when temperatures are breaking 100 degrees.

Fun at the pizza party.

I watched our amazing instructors Jair, Cole, Erik, and Lisa teach the campers an important life lesson in keeping track of their gear; labeling everything helps, but only so much. The patience practiced by Wet Planet’s instructors was amazing to me. But, what was more astounding was their ability to adapt to changing circumstances: you’ve got one kid throwing rocks while another is struggling to get her wetsuit off while another one is trying find his “special” paddle in a pile of paddles. I also learned that 9-year-old kids are far more advanced these days than I remember them being. The kids worked well as a team when needed and performed individually in the moments that counted.

Gunner and Sophie kayaking through some rapids.

One of my favorite parts of my experience was seeing the excitement, not fear, but true enthusiasm for the whitewater. Then taking pictures of them while they were navigating the whitewater, and finally, being there to see the celebration on the other side pf the rapids. As the kids approached me on the shore I heard, “that’s better than any water park ever!”, and, “that was the most awesome thing I’ve ever done!” After landing on the beach, they helped each other pull their boats up onto the shore and out of the water; these were the same kids that had lost a bootie between the van ride and getting into their boats!

Helping each other at the takeout.

On the final day of the camp, the kids have a pizza party and watch a slideshow of their week. Among the cheers, pointing, and exclamations of “Hey, that’s me!”, there were also compliments on other kids looking good paddling through the rapids and of photos of others enjoying special moments playing together, and a couple of fun-poking comments like, “check out Gunner and Miguel pondering life at lunch”, seriously! These are 9-12-year-olds.

Miguel and Gunner “pondering life”

Navigating Rapids

Fun in the sun at the takeout.

What was my takeaway from a week of photographing our Kids Summer Kayak Camp? I’m going to take the first ACA (American Canoe Association) kayak instructor certification course I can, so that I am able to teach next year’s kids.

On the last day of camp the kids get t bring their parents rafting.

The “silly” group photo.

Interested in introducing your son or daughter to the river? In addition to our Kids’ Summer Kayak Camps, Wet Planet offers daily rafting trips on the White Salmon River, family-oriented Multiday Main Salmon River Rafting Idaho trips and more.

Author Mikey Goyette works on Wet Planet’s Marketing team. When he’s not in the office, you can find him in his kayak on the river, or on the river bank playing Spike Ball.

Mikey relaxing in the Grand Canyon.