Two weekends ago, in the swift waters of the Youghiogheny River, I finally got to use my new kayaking gear as it was intended. My matte black helmet is now adorned with scratches, gashes, and the remnants of a sticker that once read “GETLOST”. I had an amazing time and feel rejuvinated after that weekend. I have my father and my First Descents family to thank for that.
My father made this trip possible. He drove himself, my kayak and me four and a half hours to the Ohiopyle, which is just south of Pittsburgh. It was a trip that started at three in the morning. Before we got there, I thought it was going to be awkward having my father hanging around, but it was not. I had a great time and am very glad that he came.
In previous blog posts, I wrote about my kayaking trip with First Descents, but I never finished it, and consequently did not even touch on the most important part. Fortunately, I have the opportunity to discuss it now. My weekend with Navigator (nickname, please see blog titled Here’s to the Rock) boosted my confidence just as the week at camp did. It was not because of my performance, though I did all right. On my best run, I hit all the rapids perfectly except one, and executed my roll on that one so I made it through sans swimming. On my worst run, I was carried downstream while my boat was pinned against some rocks. I stood on the shore while four other paddlers saved my kayak, and that was only on the first rapid. I swam twice more after that. Whether I was trying to empty my kayak after a swim, or my sinuses after a roll, I always got words of encouragement from Nav to “slaughter” the next rapid. It was an unfimiliar feeling. When I played CYO ball, my coach thought I was going to keel over if I was on the court for longer than 90 seconds, so it is a refreshing experience for me to be pushed to achieve in any physical activity.
The support of my First Descent’s family has carried on from the river to the dry land. Some members of my camp and I are still in contact on a regular basis. When I was in the hospital for my pulmonary embolism, I received letters and gifts from campers that I personally know, and some that I had not even met before. The most beneficial thing I did with my kayaking experiences though, is parallel the notion that if I can kill it on the whitewater, I can succeed at school, at blog writing, and at life in general.