I of course skied, and did school work, and hung out with friends, and played with my dog, and spent time in France – as I always do. But mostly, I kayaked.
I love everything about kayaking. I love whitewater. I love nature. I love meeting new people. I love traveling.
I got really into kayaking just over a year ago. I recently re-read my application to be a Student Ambassador for Rivers for Change, which I wrote when I was in 5th Grade. I’ve included it again at the bottom of this blog post. I didn’t know it then, but re-reading it now – a year and a half later – I can see that my entire childhood was leading me to this point.
I have been on and in whitewater since I was a baby. And I have always loved it. Long before my parents were ready, I was ready. To be in my own boat, to drop into holes, to swim rapids. To convince other kids that this is fun.
Me at 3 years old South Fork American River
When I was 4 years old, my parents got me my first hard shell kayak. A purple Jackson Fun 1. I learned to roll it in a pool and would take it on rivers without a skirt, which meant I swam a lot. By the time I was 7 years old, I graduated to a Jackson Shooting Star. I added a skirt (despite not having a river roll) and followed the older boys, which meant I continued to swim a lot.
Me getting my new Shooting Star
Me following Athan on the Lower Salmon
Me and Wyatt on the Lower Klamath
At 8 years old, I went to Junior Raft Guide camp and, to no one’s surprise, my favorite part was swimming the rapids. Needless to say, I already had a lot of experience doing that. Coloma Junior Guides
By the time I was 9 years old, my parents sent me to an adult swift water rescue class. Swift Water Rescue. I think they were hoping it would scare me a little, but it didn’t. I remember the adults in the class commenting on how strange it was that I was so comfortable in the river. I just thought it was normal.
When I was 10 years old, I spent two weeks as a Student Ambassador for Rivers for Change. It was such a cool experience to be with other, though older, kids who love rivers as much as I do. And to raise money for and learn about environmental issues from Sue Norman (Sue is also a former National Champion Slalom Kayaker and Rafter). Truckee Source to Sea. This also gave me an opportunity to public speak about river issues, be interviewed by news stations, and have an article in the local paper.
Truckee Source to Sea June 2017
And then later that summer, right after turning 11, I kayaked the Rogue with family friends. I begged to run Blossom Bar (a Class IV rapid). I made it through most of the rapid, but then swam on the eddy fence at the bottom. This is apparently not a rapid to swim – several people have died there.
Me, Quinn, Jayce, Athan, Matt and Marc Rogue August 2017
Needless to say, we drove straight from that trip to a kayak school. It was time for me to learn some real kayaking skills. Unfortunately, there are no kayak classes for kids, but Dan Crandall at Current Adventures agreed to teach me privately. I did my first slalom gates at the Nugget. And got my first river roll at Old Scary. After that, my kayaking really took off. I can’t believe that was less than 18 months ago.
In that moment, kayaking went from something I did on trips with my family to something I was passionate about pursuing on my own. Spending time in my boat became a priority.
I spent the Fall of 2017 learning about Slalom Kayaking. I attended Slalom Camp in Chilliwack with Brendan Curson. CCE Paddling Club I competed in slalom, down river, and boater cross at Moke Races, Feather Fest, and the Mamquam. And won!
Mamquam Race October 2017
Winning the Mamquam Race against adults October 2017
2017 ended with an awesome Christmas present. A Jackson Rockstar XS.
Santa getting it right!
Now for 2018. Which is what this blog post is supposed to be about.
2018 started off slow on the kayaking front. Then, unexpectedly, my parents got a Grand Canyon permit for the spring. And they were willing to take me and my little brother this time. And let me kayak – and maybe even paddle board – the river.
To get ready, I went to OKC with Brendan for three weeks in March. OKC is a man-made river with an Olympic style slalom course. OKC The athletes from Brendan’s club in Chilliwack were there to train for National Team Trials. Several of them have since made the Canadian team. Team Profiles. I, however, had a hard time at OKC. The water was faster and the holes stickier than I was used to on natural rivers. The kids all knew each other from home, and I was not only a stranger but also much younger than them. I also wasn’t at their ability level. For the first week or two, I couldn’t even make it through the whole course. But I made progress on that trip and by the end I felt ready for the Grand Canyon.
Traveling to OKC March 2018
In April 2018, we spent 2 weeks on the Grand Canyon. It was incredible. There were hard parts for sure – like 50+ mile an hour upstream winds and sandstorms that lasted entire days and nights – but for the most part, my brother and I loved it. Huge swims, cold water, and all. I kayaked, paddle boarded, and rafted. My brother mostly rafted. People at home seemed to think my parents were nuts for taking us at ages 11 and 8, but I don’t think so. I think if you have the right experience, you can do this safely.
Lava Falls April 2018
Unfortunately, after getting home from the Grand Canyon I broke my wrist. I was disappointed to have to drop out of the spring kayak festival circuit. I was still able to serve as a Mentor for the next group of Rivers for Change Student Ambassadors though. And I was able to spend some time running the Truckee River, which is such a fun stretch and just a few minutes away from our home in Squaw Valley. I still have my inflatable kayak from when I was a toddler, which I use to take friends who aren’t boaters down the river with me.
Me and Cahyani on the Truckee River June 2018
Love the Truckee River in the Spring
I didn’t get to kayak again until August 2018 at Keeners on the Ottawa. I had been wanting to go to Keeners for a while, and finally could now that I was 12 (and had a river roll). I loved everything about Keeners. The river, my cabin-mates, the coaches and staff.
Keener August 2018
Surfing Phils August 2018
To my surprise, when I got home from 3 months away in France and Canada, my parents announced that over the summer they had bought land in Lotus at Barking Dog – a surf wave on the South Fork American. I knew they had been looking at property for years, my parents met there in the early 1990s. But I wasn’t expecting it to ever really happen. The property is perfect. It’s not on the river, but it’s less than a mile up the road. It has a tiny house (and I mean tiny), a pond, and a view.
It’s tiny, but perfect!
Alex and Athan at the pond
Needless to say, Fall 2018 we kayaked. We started an informal facebook group so that we could meet more local kids interested in kayaking and together build a community. Kids of all ages and abilities have been joining us, as have some volunteer coaches. We even made a logo and stickers. Coloma Lotus Junior Kayak Team
Coloma Lotus Junior Kayak Team with Sue Norman at the Nugget Fall 2018
Nugget Fall 2018 (in USA gear I borrowed from Ria Sribar)
Together, we attended the local fall slalom races – the Moke Races and Feather Fest. And won, again! We had a blast together.
Coloma Lotus Junior Kayak Team and Volunteer Coaches at Feather Fest September 2018
Feather Fest September 2018
Moke Races September 2018
Me and Hannah at Moke Races
Since not many kids run Chili Bar yet, I also spent a lot of time in the fall on the Coloma Shuttle meeting up with the local adult clubs to run the harder stretches.
Trouble Maker Fall 2018
Also, as we do every year, my family and classmates volunteered for Truckee River Day. It’s not about kayaking, it’s about cleaning up the meadows that are part of the watershed. Which helps our local river. And keeps it so that we can kayak it into the future.
Me and Annika volunteering at Truckee River Day Fall 2018
Eventually, winter came. It’s been a huge winter. But despite the endless powder days that always keep me smiling, I still dream of kayaking. I go to the local pool for roll sessions when I can. It’s a ski town, not a boating town, so not that many people show up. I go anyways because nothing makes me happier then being in my boat, upside down. Truckee Roll Sessions
Truckee Pool Sessions
I can’t wait to continue to pursue my passion for kayaking in 2019. Both my school and my parents are very supportive. I have scaled back on skiing to make more time to paddle and for school work. I am headed to Chile in a few days to run the Futaleufu with my dad. I can’t wait!
Application to be a Student Ambassador for Rivers for Change – Spring 2017 (5th Grade)
On the river, I am home. I have been going on river trips since I was a baby. I have spent more days than I can count on the South Fork of the American River. And have swum almost every rapid! In the summer, my family takes me and my brother on a month long rafting road trip to places like the Lower Klamath and the Lower Salmon. I love it so much that I never want to leave. A few years ago, we even did a very long trip that connected the Middle Fork of the Salmon, the Main Salmon, and the Lower Salmon. I have been down the river on oar boats, catarafts, paddle boats, inflatable kayaks, hard shell kayaks, and paddle boards. I got my first hard shell kayak when I was 4 years old. I learned to roll in the pool when I was 7. But, I’m still working on my river roll! I have taken Junior Guides Rafting Camp, as well as kayaking classes in Coloma. I have also completed an adult Swift Water Rescue course. I love running the river, but I love camping along the river just as much. I like finding edible plants that I have learned about in my Native American studies class. I also like identifying animals, fish, birds, snakes and bugs (except for spiders) that are in my waterproof nature guide book. I have seen a bear, an island with thousands of tiny frogs, bald eagles, river otters, ducks, and lots of fish. I learned how to fly fish a few years ago, but I always catch and release.
Fly Fishing on Middle Fork Salmon Summer 2014
I want to go on this trip to learn more about the Truckee River and then teach it to kids in my school. I want to do this so that kids know what is happening to their environment and together we can help fix some of the problems. I also want to spend time with other kids that feel the same way that I do about the river.
I'm a kayaker, skier, reader, baker, who loves exploring new places.
Rivers, lakes, oceans, mountains, cooking, books, and music. And adventures with my big dog (and my little brother).