Professional river staff follow the same rule they preach to the folks they share river time with: you do not teach those you love to kayak – particularly your own children. The rules are simple:
- Allow your kids to love kayaking for themselves, not for you
- Avoid creating “performance pressure” – setting up your kids to get frustrated because they are not learning fast enough…which leads them to believe they cannot reach your expectations, misinterpreting your frustration because you are not communicating well enough.
- Never forget that paddling with kids is not the same as paddling with adults; you aspire to be a kid at heart, your kids are kids.
So what do professional river staff do when they in turn have kids? That was the question we asked four years ago. Identifying that we had a whole group of friends—all of whom were/still are professional river staff/guides/Olympic names, with kids about the same age (10+/- years old) who needed to get into boating, we offered to take over the “wet exit part” of kayaking offering a special Community Kids Camp.
Now in its third season, our Community Kids Camp includes a group of kids all of whom have parents with names that resonate through the annals of southeastern paddling. Friendships among the parents have spilled over to friendships among the kids. Reunions have rekindled friendships, Grand Canyon trips have happened, and Endless River Adventures started staff training at an early age! The group gets together two times a summer to work with our staff (while the parents sneak away to paddle/bike/read a book for a couple of days).
The experience has been so positive that the community insisted we create a second age tier for the younger crew (the 6-years olds +/-). Originally called the pee-wee group, we have renamed it to the Young Guns group.
This has been such a positive, gratifying experience for Endless River Adventures that when the Nantahala Race Club (NRC) offered the opportunity to co-sponsor the Nantahala Kids Club last year, we embraced it. The Nantahala Kids Club has provided the opportunity to introduce kayaking to the local Swain County Community; river staff families are involved, as are families whom include parents who have never desired to paddle, but kids who do. Meeting one afternoon a week for six weeks in the spring and fall, the Nantahala Kids Club has expanded to a two-tiered program: one being fun paddling that focuses on fun and social networking, the second feeding those same kids into more competitive-oriented training for slalom and freestyle.
Is our kids’ kayak program only for our close-knit community? Absolutely not! Our expanded paddling community reaches out to the entire boating community. The annual 4th of July Kids Week is one of the most popular kids weeks of the season, and has expanded to additional dates to accommodate those who cannot join us over the 4th holiday.
The sound of little feet racing around at the outpost is heart-warming for us, as is the grateful look of our friends/parents, who return at the end of the day after a well-deserved break! We are inspired by the fact that many of the young paddlers we have introduced to paddling have returned to be valuable team members here at Endless River Adventures—to teach the next generation of young paddlers!