KAYAKING CLUB

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The Roaring Fork Kayaking Club welcomes local kids to get into the river by removing barriers to the sport.

COME ON IN ~ THE WATER’S FINE

My dad would suit me up in his ’80s kayaking gear. He’d stuff me into the fiberglass boat that he made in our garage. I was 10 or 11-years-old and this was the beginning of my lifelong love of kayaking. Together we navigated the little riffles on the Saco River in Maine. I remember the thrill of running my first class II rapid, which seemed like a raging torrent at the time. I’ll never forget the sense of accomplishment when I successfully executed my first Eskimo roll (as we used to call it in the olden days). Since then, kayaking has gifted me incredible adventures, a community of friends, and a deep love and respect for rivers. 

I DIDN’T REALIZE UNTIL LATER HOW EASY I HAD IT

Most people, and especially most kids, don’t have as easy an entry point into kayaking as I did. There are many barriers to getting into the sport, including access to gear, coaching, transportation, and the list goes on. The Roaring Fork Valley is in many ways the perfect place to learn to kayak. We have rivers of all ability levels, some of which can be paddled every month of the year. We also have a number of world-class kayakers with centuries of combined experience. Despite these incredible resources, it seems that the sport is actually waning, at least locally. 

DOING SOMETHING ABOUT IT

About a year ago a group of local kayakers, Scott Dillard, Ben West, and Mathieu Dumoulin, put their heads together. They wanted to figure out how to share their love of the rivers. And how to share their knowledge of kayaking with the community, and specifically with young people. Scott then invited me and other local paddlers to found the ROARING FORK KAYAKING CLUB. The mission: to provide access, instruction, and gear to kids in our Valley to create an inclusive community for whitewater kayaking. We hope to create an environment where participants can increase their skills, confidence, love for river running. And their appreciation of wild places. 

Scott Dillard, with the funding of Integrated Mountain Properties, took the first step to realizing our goal and purchased a fleet of new kayaks, gear, and a trailer. Since then, the club founders and coaches have all become trained kayaking instructors and wilderness medicine providers. 

INSPIRATION

We designed the Roaring Fork Kayaking Club after the European club model, where kids will pay a reasonable annual membership fee in order to have access to instruction and gear for the entire year. One of our primary goals is to make sure that absolutely anyone who wants to join is able to, and we will be able to provide scholarships for any kids who need it. We will provide river and flatwater instruction every week during the summer and early fall and hope to have a core group of boys and girls who can commit to our program and learn to love kayaking and rivers, and who will carry on the sport into the future. Some of our long term goals are to develop a group of kayakers that may enter competitions across the state. We also hope to eventually establish a permanent brick-and-mortar headquarters. 

Personally, I’m really excited about being a part of the Roaring Fork Kayaking Club. In the past, I’ve had the pleasure of teaching kayaking to so many different groups of people, from CRMS students to skilled adults, to kids from the inner-city who didn’t even know how to swim. What I have noticed from my experience in coaching is that learning to kayak is much more than learning to kayak. Learning to kayak is also about learning trust, building community, and fostering a love and stewardship of our rivers, and that is what we hope to accomplish. That, and a lot of fun days on the river.

LEARN MORE

FOUNDING FAMILY OF THE RFKC ON A GRAND ADVENTURE by Aimee Cullwick

About Nate White

Nate is a kayak instructor and one of the founding board members of the Roaring Fork Kayak Club. He is originally from Maine but has been living in Carbondale since 2015. He teaches English at Glenwood Springs High School. When he is not on the river, he loves to garden, ski, bike, and spend time with his wife and puppy. He also writes speculative science fiction, with a book coming out next year. His favorite local stretch of whitewater is the Slaughterhouse section of the Roaring Fork, as seen in his Helping Hands article about a new nonprofit dedicated to welcoming kids to kayaking.