James has been paddling since he was five. He is the royal prince of the Tuck Gorge, commandeering river comings-and-goings from the put in at Dillsboro Rafting Company–his family’s rafting company.

While kayaking just keeps getting more fun, being upside down and swimming were still not #1 on James’ most favorite list (welcome to the club James!).

As he worked his way up from the Tuck Gorge to the Nantahala, the Class III Nantahala Falls became more of an issue for James. He ran the rapid with his dad, he ran it during the 2008 Kids Camp. But top hole still made him pretty nervous.

This winter James had a big break through. He and dad Shane ran the Falls, James flipped, and without a bit of nervousness he did a wet exit and swam to shore.

James running the Falls during 2008 Kids Camp

What changed? James joined the swim team last fall. His favorite event is freestyle because it helps him on the river. Yep, suddenly swimming on the river now seems just like swimming. And nothing more of a big deal than that.

Is James still a little nervous on a new run? A little.

What is his best advice to fellow boaters (young & old!): Never give up. Great advice from a 7-year old!