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Combining Two Loves

“The only way to do great work is to love what you do.” – Steve Jobs

If you know me, you would know that when I speak about coaching girls basketball, or about being on the river, my love is hard to disguise. Being able to combine these two is something truly magical.

Introducing the sport of whitewater kayaking to a group of young women is an empowering moment. All eyes are on you and the trust is at its highest. Anxiety and apprehension toward a new, perhaps uncomfortable experience, is a feeling felt by many their first time they crawl into a whitewater kayak.

Many kids never get the opportunity to experience whitewater kayaking and with my background as a kayak instructor, I opened with the basics of kayaking; how to put on a skirt. We forget as experienced kayakers how the routine items we do every time we kayak are quizzical to the beginner. Next I spoke about outfitting and how you are supposed to fit and feel in a kayak. From there everyone went through the progression of being flipped in a kayak to a wet exit.

From this activity you really get a feel for who is relaxing and getting more comfortable in the water, to those that still have a heightened sense of anxiety. For those that were not comfortable, they simply didn’t put the skirt on and just paddled around. Those that were intrigued, started the beginning process of learning to roll.

To see the smiles and the girls having fun, splashing each other, and learning something new, is a moment I will forever be grateful for. Here’s to getting our youth involved in the whitewater community.

Huge thanks to Clay Nash for helping not only with his time and his knowledge, but also for the gear that he brought.

Crystal.Gustin

I started kayaking in Wisconsin of all places, because this is where I am from. I then moved to San Diego and took on kayak surfing along with heading to the Kern River when water was available. I then made the move to Asheville, NC and have been hooked on this sport since my Wisconsin days. With whatever it is that you do, do it because you love it, not because society tells you should or for other outside factors. Don't simply exist, live!

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