by Olivia McGinnis
I often go kayaking in Bryson City, North Carolina. There is a kayaking store called Endless River Adventures in Bryson City. Endless River Adventures offers kayaking instruction, guided raft trips, unguided raft trips, and fly fishing instruction. They sell Wave Sport kayaks and kayaking gear. ERA is mostly run by a lady by the name of Juliet and also a guy named Ken.
This past summer, Juliet asked me to be a Junior Instructor for Endless River Adventures’ Beginner Kid’s Camp. I was so excited, but I also didn’t know what to expect and was a little nervous. Kid’s Camp is three days and, depending on the day, around seven hours long.
We met at ERA in the morning with Pelle and Ellie, the two ERA instructors who were helping with the camp. When all of the kids got there, they all got in one of the ERA vans and we loaded their kayaks in the trailer behind the van. We drove to the Finger Lake to teach everyone basic strokes and to get them used to their kayaks. When kayaking, you have your paddle and kayak, the gear that you usually wear is a helmet, a PFD, and a spray skirt. A spray skirt is something that you put around your waste and then put around the hole that you sit in in your kayak so water doesn’t pour in. What is good to know how to do in kayaking is how to roll. A roll is when you flip over in your kayak (intentionally or unintentionally) and you use your paddle to flip yourself back up so you do not have to swim, also known as the wet exit. What we were teaching/working on with the kids at the lake was how to swim. There is a loop on the front of your spray skirt that you need to pull if you flip and can’t roll up. Once you pull the loop, your spray skirt should pop off of your kayak and you need to push yourself out of your kayak.
One girl forgot how to pull her spray skirt when we were practicing the wet exit. I wasn’t in my kayak because the instructors were out of their kayaks helping the kids (who were in their kayaks) with the wet exit. The girl was struggling under water and I was the one keeping an eye on her and helping her at the moment. The other instructors were about fifteen feet away and didn’t notice what was going on. I swam over to her and she put her hands on my shoulder and got her head out of the water so she could breathe. I pulled her spray skirt for her and she swam out of her kayak.
Later that day we went on a small portion of a fairly simple river called the Town Tuck (Tuckaseegee). We ran only one rapid that day because the kids were mostly new to kayaking and were pretty tired from being at the lake for most of the day. I sat in an eddy (calm water behind a rock) in my kayak above the rapid so if anyone had trouble and flipped I could paddle down and help them. The instructors all went down and the last little boy to go down the rapid in his kayak got scared and paddled into the eddy next to me. “I don’t think I can do this.” He told me, his voice shaking with nervousness.
“You’ll be fine, I promise. You’re one hundred percent skilled enough for this rapid. Once you run it you’ll be so proud of yourself and you’ll realize how much fun it was. I swear, you’ll have an amazing time running it.” I told him.
I talked to him for a long time about what we were going to do in order to go down the rapid successfully. After a while of encouraging him, he finally followed me down the rapid and, like I had promised him, he did brilliantly. It felt really good to see him paddle into the eddy at the bottom of the rapid with a huge grin on his face. “I told you that you’d do really well! Aren’t you glad that you ran it?” I asked him.
“Yeah!” He replied, stilling smiling like crazy.
That day I learned so much about teaching and how good it felt after you helped somebody learn something. I made lots of friends and a couple of them I became really good friends with and I will most likely see them next year at the Kid’s Camp.
Throughout the next two days of the camp, I helped kids learn the technique of strokes, balance, rolling, and just having fun kayaking. It felt really good helping people learn. Not only did I teach them something, they taught me something: how to be a good instructor.