The most common question I get asked about my kayaking from those who are in the sport casually or not in it at all is: “When and how did you get started in kayaking?” This is that article and it continues to why I do what I do today.
At 6 years old, in 1970, I was afraid of roller coasters. In fact, I was terrified and cried every time my dad tried to get me on one. However, I wasn’t afraid of much else. One evening my dad returned from work and was all excited about something. He asked me if I wanted to go whitewater canoeing. My vision was, “roller coaster”. I asked how fast we would be going and his reply was, “about 10 miles per hour.” I was in. Roller coasters go 60 miles per hour, whitewater is wimpy, no problem.
In June of 1970 we bought a Grumman 16 foot open canoe, whitewater special. My dad and I met with his friends from work at the put-in of Pine Creek, the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania. It had been raining and the river was high, according to Wilford Kling, the only kayaker on the trip. We were embarking on a two day trip with class 2-3+ whitewater. My dad and I loaded the boat with our camping, fishing, and paddling gear, including my goose down jacket in case I got cold in the water.
This trip was easy, I thought, but so much fun. I caught some nice trout; we made it through the biggest rapid called “owasie” or something about like that. Yes, I am remembering this first trip 32 years later with vivid memories. Wilford was afraid to let me try his homemade fiberglass kayak the first day, but on the second day he made the mistake of letting me in it. The entire second day of that trip Wilford paddled with my dad in the canoe and had to beg me to get his boat back.
For three years we paddled Pine Creek or Beech Creek (another class 2-3) in our Grumman until my dad got transferred to Florida. Other than the class 1-2 Juniper Springs, we didn’t find any whitewater in Florida, so bass fishermen we became. On several occasions we took our Grumman to Coco-Beach for some surfing. I don’t recommend anybody try this on a crowded beach. I don’t remember if we actually killed anybody, but I do remember the lifeguard kicking my dad and me off the beach with our canoe after continually filling up with water turning sideways and then taking everything in our way out.