Eight year ago something went out of whack in the great scheme of things. A 14-year old boy scout from Orlando got taken under the wing of some crazies at a camp in westernNorth Carolina. The camp was Camp Daniel Boone, a Boy Scout camp in the heart of theSmoky Mountains, and the crazies I am referring to were whitewater kayakers.
How does a boy scout from Trop 111 in Orlando end up in the Smoky Mountains? When I was thirteen I signed up for a session at Camp Daniel Boone. I could not wait to get up to North Carolina and participate in Camp Daniel Boone’s legendary high adventure program.
But before I knew it, my summer session was ending. As I packed and headed back toOrlando, I promised myself I would return the next year…as a counselor. Little did I know that my first year of employment at the camp would lead to me finding my first and (to date) only passion—whitewater kayaking.
No sooner had I arrived at camp to begin the summer as a counselor that I found myself paddling a kayak around in circles on the lake of the camp. And right after that, my fellow counselor friends decided it was time to go to take me down the roaring Nantahala River. At this point, I knew practically nothing about whitewater. I mean, only a month prior to this experience I had honestly believed that kayaking was a sport entirely for people with no legs! Hey, I was from Florida!
Regardless s of my ignorance, off we went. Armed only with my trusty Extrasport ribbed PFD, a sharp-looking full coverage Protec helmet (hot pink) and a green Corsica S painted to look like an alligator, all borrowed from camp. I figured the water would probably be about the same temperature as Daytona Beach so I did not worry about any tops or anything. We were headed to the river!
The day was overcast and being a 5’4” tall, 120 pound 14-year old, conditions were probably against me. Surprise! The water was not like Daytona Beach. We put in at Ferebee Park and by Surfers Rapid I was a kayaking popsicle. I learned two important lessons that day. One, I needed to learn how to paddle in a straight line and two; I needed to get some warm gear.
Somewhere down the line I earned my eagle scout, picked up a kayak roll, learned to paddle in a straight line or my own gear and spent four years as a counselor at Camp Daniel Boone. But kayaking called…I wanted to be able to paddle more than once a week so I moved to the Nantahala Gorge during the summer so that I could kayak every day, all summer long. Then it got serious. I decided I could no longer live on kayaking for only the three summer months of the year, so I transferred here in western North Carolina. That was three years ago and I confess to having a real honest “addiction.” I have fallen in love with Class V paddling and here in western North Carolina there is plenty.
I am now 22, a college student, a proficient whitewater paddler working on the river with Endless River Adventures, still getting twitches if I don’t get to paddle at least three times a week. I am having the time of my life!