During the last full week of July, we ran our 12th Inner City Kids Kayaking Camp. So after 12 years, why am I still doing this? Easy – because it’s really fun and very rewarding! I love to teach kayaking and I love to share this opportunity with people who would never otherwise have the opportunity to do something like this. It makes the students’ world a little more fun and bigger – at least I hope so, and its makes all the instructors’ worlds a little bigger and more fun too! This year, we partnered again with the Graham Windham School in Hastings, NY to teach underserved teenage students and their teachers to kayak. The week started with 12 students including three returning students.
Last year, we had Jamori and Johnny who decided to come back for more kayaking. Jamori learned to roll last year and Johnny is petrified of the water and can’t swim but wanted to meet his fear – again! We were also very lucky to have Sharon for the third time! Sharon is part fish and won our breath holding contest in the pool! In addition, this year we had first timers Laura aka Chef, Paola or P, Isiah, Kevin, Brian, Shalee, Victoria, Jimeny, and Jasmin. Some of the students had heard of kayaking before but none of the new students really understood what whitewater kayaking was until we got out of the pool and to the rivers. Especially if people have not seen whitewater rivers before, it’s even more difficult for them to imagine what whitewater kayaking is. One student thought we were going to be in the pool all week!! Boy was she surprised when we went to the Hudson and the rivers in Connecticut!
We had some interesting challenges from the water point of view because the Northeast is experiencing a pretty severe drought. Water levels were lower than I ever remember – especially for the camp! Luckily, the pool at the Graham School and and the Hudson River were unaffected by the drought so there was plenty of water for the first three days. We also had scorching hot temperatures – ideal for teaching people to kayak and for getting people excited about being in the water, and we sure did spend a lot of time in the water!
Day 4, we went to the Housatonic and I was not even sure we’d be able to run the river – with only 150 CFS in the river – I was having trouble imagining where we’d go. Happily, we were able to make our way down, even playing in the George’s rapid and swimming it several times as well as using it to practice newly acquired skills for eddy turns and ferries as well as rolling! This section of the river also allowed for plenty of practice in bouncing off rocks or what to do if stuck on rocks. Everyone became rock lovers and huggers by the end of the day!
Our graduation paddle was at the Farmington River. Thanks to T’Ville-Stock the previous weekend, we all knew that there was enough water to get down and even a nice section of river to run. Though we got a later than usual start, everyone was able to paddle down through the bridge abutment rapid from the Park, our put-in. Some kids saw their first turtle and we even had an osprey sighting! Our advanced crew of paddlers including the returning students Sharon and Johnny and new student Brian who had had some paddling experience before, ran the infamous hole section rapids. At this level, this rapid is a technical slalom course around rocks finishing off with a plunge into the last hole, a good test of all paddling skills!
By the end of the week, everyone was paddling their own boat very successfully, facing fear of the unkown and trusting what their instructors had taught them and what they had learned to do for themselves. A big thanks to the entire Jackson family for their continued help with the camp as well as Phil Sheppard, Katie Kowalski – from the great white north of Canada, Andy Kuhlberg, and Dave and Paula Saaf. None of this would be possible without all your help! And a big congratulations to all the students taking part in the camp – you are now officially members of the whitewater family and we look forward to paddling with you again!!