I find being a paddling parent, super easy, super hard, relaxed, scary, and unsure.
It started in the early 90’s when I would paddle around the feeder canal with Emily on my lap in my slalom boat. Then I put her in her own boat on the feeder canal in DC (Class 1, 1+). She loved to paddle the gates. I was relaxed and sure that this was a good thing. I wanted to teach her to roll, but she refused to wear a skirt, so years went buy and Emily remained a casual flatwater or class 1-2 boater, with no skirt. Then Dane came along. He was the same. Loved paddling, obsessed with it for himself and his foam boats (at age 2). Dane also paddled the feeder canal, only with a skirt. One he couldn’t get off himself (2’ 6” tall and about 24 pounds at age 2) However, Dane was a proficient boater, good brace, and loved it. On the fourth of July I took Dane down “Little Falls” of the Potomac, at age 2. It was a full on class 3-4 rapid. I am not going to go into the details, but I was very upset by the end of the rapid because he didn’t listen to me and surfed all of the big holes. I later found out from my wife, that he didn’t know what left or right meant. So, I was not a very smart paddling dad that day. All in all, Dane did well, but we would not be running Little Falls until he learned some vocabulary words, like left and right.
Zoom- Now we are in 2003
Emily learned came to me and asked me to teach her to roll, with a skirt on at age 13. That took about 15 minutes. Dane was freaked out that his sister could roll and not him. “Wait a second, I am the kayaker here!” was his remark. He also learned to roll that day. Since then I have been paddling almost every day with the kids. On average I make Emily cry once per session. It kills me that I can’t just paddle with her without saying, “Emily try that wave, or hole.” Now, I am not usually pushing her to do something bigger, harder, or scarier (too me), but just different. So, often, Emily says, “I don’t want to surf that, no thanks.” If it is smaller and safer than the last place we were, I have had a hard time biting my tongue, so I say, “come on Emily, it is smaller and easier than the last wave.” She immediately cries. Why? Because she is caught in between doing something that scares her (even if it is not rational, at least to me) and disappointing me. I am so proud of her, but she knows that I think she should do it, so if she doesn’t, I will somehow be a little disappointed. That is crazy, how do I continue to do this to her and myself? So, I try to do nothing and not suggest anything, but she wants me to push her, “medium”. What is medium, you ask? Two tears, for less than two minutes, is my best estimate of pushing her medium. Luckily, she spends many hours each day with the unyielding smile on her face, combined with a determined grimace when she is putting forth full effort on a wave or rapid. So the two minutes with two tears I guess is OK for a 13 year old girl. Any advice from other women out there, I am all ears!
Dane is different- Yes, Dane cried the last time we paddled too. However, we were filming with Scott Lindgren in DC and Difficult Run Creek was running. Anybody who lives here knows just how intimidating the last drop looks and how hard it really is to do in control. Well, Dane was all about running it and could certainly do it. He made the mistake of telling me that he was “nervous about crashing on those rocks”. After some discussion in the “last chance eddy”, I decided that he should save it for another day. He took it OK, got out and started walking. Scott and I ran the drop and waited for Bill, Jure’, and Dane to meet us in the eddy below. When I looked up I saw Dane hiding behind his paddle and obviously crying. I yelled, “Are you hurt?” because I did hear some crashing down the hill when he dropped his boat. “No” he replied. Why are you crying? He wouldn’t answer until he got into his boat. His answer was this. “I just felt different. You never told me I couldn’t run a rapid before. I really wanted to run it.” I felt bad, because he was up for it, but I still feel that it will be even more fun to run the next time, when he has been looking forward to it for a while.
Emily is now in Chile and will be there for the next 7 weeks running rivers everyday. I am very excited for her, but would rather be there with her. I will fly down there with Dane in a couple of weeks to catch up with her so we can paddle together again. I will do everything in my power not to make her cry, but don’t know how I will do. We will make my “Rolling and Bracing” DVD due out this spring. I want to have the best rollers I know in the video, that would be both of my kids, I swear that there are no better rollers. I would guess that between Dane and Emily their success rate (number of rolls per roll attempts) is about 99.5% (I saw Dane miss one at Rock Island, once)
What does the future hold? Well, I will get to witness Emily competing for the first time as a member of the US Freestyle Team, whoa. I think that a worthy goal will be for me to compete with both Emily and Dane in a world championships (Australia 2005?). I guess I had better keep my skills on the rise!
Also look for the new “Fun 1” for Dane. No longer will the little guys and girls be without a top quality, lightweight, fitting boat! Dane has been quite helpful in designing it with David and I.