Life- Family- Kayaking- Family- Life
It is July 4th and we just woke up next to the Main Payette River here at “Horseshoe Bend” where we plan on doing another session at the “Bladder Wave”, which is a wonderful wave at this 11,000 cfs river. Emily, Dane, KC, Kristine, and Courtney (17 year old Kiwi living with us until November) . Kristine and Emily just got their running shoes on and are running up the mountain and back before it gets hot out. The sound of the river just outside of the Rv is the only sound you hear. I am already on my second cup of coffee, the door to the RV is open so that the dogs can go in and out. I drank my first cup of coffee outside to the sunrise, sitting on the folding camp chair, watching the wave. KC is sleeping with Dane and has Dane up against the wall as he wants to cuddle close to keep warm (he can’t keep covers on, because he sleeps naked (only a diaper). We left Rock Island in early April this year and haven’t been home since. We haven’t left home either. Our first time being back to Rock Island will be in October. The purpose of going out in an RV on the road is to kayak at the best places, go to competitions/festivals where the kayaking has another fun element to it, and to be able to support ourselves by selling boats. The benefits of leaving our stationary house to go traveling from place to place are too many to list. My kids are the product of our travels. If you met them and talked to them for hours, you couldn’t place them to any region of North America. It would be clear that they are from North America from their accent and knowledge of this continent more than any other, but that would be about it. Their social skills come from a combination of spending time with adults and kids, from meeting new people every single day that they must interact with, as well as having life long friends that they get to spend a day here or there with. I have committed to two things for the past 25 years. First off is to only work from “home” so that I can be with Kristine full time, and in the past 15 years to keep my kids with me full time as well. This has driven my decisions on a daily basis and everything my overall lifestyle, including how my business is run stems from this decision. In an ever-changing world, with every-changing circumstances and daily activities, this is my core, consistent, dependable life-line. I have my family with me to support and to support me. I have my friends, too, of course, and I have my kayaking and other activities that I enjoy. Some of my best friends are the incredible people I work with at Jackson Kayak. They are some of the finest people in the world and every minute I get to work with them is a pleasure I cherish. Any time I spend time with people who care about, are the best at, and are tireless in their efforts towards a worthy goal I am in my zone. This includes the kayakers I paddle with (my kayak team and family), as well as the people I manage the business with (my partner and factory team). On tour I am in connection with the paddling team and my family face to face, but my factory team only by email and phone for the most part. In the winter I am face to face with my factory team more, but still together with my family and some of my kayaking team.
We are in Idaho now, just back from Germany where the world championships took place. It was a bitter sweet world championships as my team had its best showing yet, winning 11 out of 15 of the medals (12 out of 18 if you count OC1). Dane was the star of this world championships, winning 3 golds (Junior Men, C1, and Squirt) and one bronze in Oc1. His kayak scores would have won the men’s class and he would have won two of the three rounds in it. Watching Dane each year on an incredible trajectory in both his paddling ability, but also as a person growing up as a citizen of the world is a dream come true for me. Emily, who has been on the top of the world for some time now, winning the past two world championships, got second in this one, her first time taking a step backwards at the world stage. No small feat, of course, getting second in the world championships is a HUGE accomplishment, but when winning is your goal, and you have already done that, getting second can be quite a disappointment for somebody like her. How she handled that showed more about her as a person that winning ever could. While I wish she could have achieved her goal of winning this time, too, I am thankful for the experience and how she dealt with it for her not winning. I had my own personal record, my first time not making the semi-finals cut! While I got second in the prelims to Stephen Wright and had one terrible ride for me, and one OK one, and was expecting to improve upon that in the quarter finals round, I went the other way and had two really bad rides and one that scored much lower than expected. I was 11th out of the 20 in that round and 1 place (3 points) out of making the semi-finals cut. There were many factors I could blame, like while the first two heats got to compete in bright conditions under natural light, and the last heat (my heat) competed under spot lights in an environment I hadn’t trained for this year, nor anticipated as it wasn’t scheduled to go into the night. Also my ride scored about 160 points (one McNasty) lower than I thought it should. I was all fired up after my final ride, assuming I made the cut in good form, but when my score came up it was not enough. Not making the quarter final cut for me is something I think if we did it over again ten more times, I can’t imagine not making it once. However, it happened and I was on the bench for the rest of the competition. This is perceived by different people differently. Some think, “age is catching up with EJ”. Some think that it was a stroke of bad luck, some are very happy to see me out early and hope it ends my career, and some were really bummed to see me miss the show. I saw more than one person cry when I missed the cut, and also saw some big smiles. I cried. Not for long, but when Emily asked me if I was OK, I cried for second, then caught myself and stopped. Two years I have wanted to gain my title back. I won the 2004 pre-worlds, 2005 Worlds, 2006 World Cup, 2007 Worlds, and then got second in the 2009 Worlds. I was fired up to win the 2011 worlds and continue my reign again. It went the other way. The good news is that this is the only way to test my true motivations and if I am doing the right things in life. If I regretted a single moment of training, paddling, traveling, etc. and thought “I wouldn’t have done that if I knew I was going to lose” then I should change my life. However, I couldn’t’ think of a single thing I would have changed. In 1996 when I didn’t make the Olympic Team for slalom, I immediately thought of all of the things I would have done differently, including moving out of Washington, DC into an RV to travel and paddle anywhere, anytime I wanted. For this reason, I am very thankful and happy. I am doing it right, I believe, as I have no regrets. Along those lines, I plan on doing much of the same moving forward. I will be finding the best paddling locations at the best time of the year and hitting them up. I will be river running, creeking, playboating, and racing, too. If anything, I will attempt some more variety in my paddling. I even plan on doing some more fishing than last year.
I keep getting the same questions from people, like “how do you stay motivated for so long?” “When are you going to retire?” Every year I do my best to plan out my life, what I can do on a daily basis, to suit my desires best. It evolves over time into different things, and hopefully always challenges me to keep growing and improving, but with this way of living, there is no such thing as getting tired or wanting to “stop”. You don’t stop doing the things you love most; that is just crazy. I am challenged by my business every day and it keeps my brain fresh and growing. I am challenged by my paddling every day as I am paddling with people who are so good and getting better so fast (like Dane) that doing today what I was doing yesterday just won’t cut it. I love that challenge. A saying that is used in business that I like to apply to everything in my life; “You are either growing or dying” keeps me from being complacent. This isn’t a fear based thinking, but given a choice of trying something new, or deciding if I should push forwards or allow myself to stay where I am at, my first reaction is to push forwards. That gets my adrenaline going and my brain finding new ways to do things. My business grew 50% last year and is up 50% this year in a time when USA manufacturing companies, and just about any business is struggling to survive. We are challenged there, too, of course, and nothing is ever as good or bad as it seems from the outside. Being profitable enough to be self sustaining is our challenge. Growth is from new product and new product is expensive to create. It takes a ton of cash. We are willing to invest in the future, as it is better for everyone. We now have about 120 employees, and are expanding our factory for the second time (another 16,000 sq/ft. ) The alternative to that is to button down the hatches and lay people off, and implode.
Back to the subject I started on. So many challenges and decisions that are in front of me every day. Each one could derail my train if not approached properly. Every challenge has a variety of ways to attack it and the obvious ways, and the ways 99 people out of 100 would suggest I approach them, would destroy everything I have created in my life. Knowing that doing things the “normal way” would destroy me and everything I have created would come down around me is the biggest lesson I have learned in life so far. I do my best to avoid such situations.
Back to where I am going, instead of where I am not going….
I am in Idaho for another week. Today we’ll watch fireworks in McCall after paddling here on the Payette. We’ll be based up on the North Fork after today. The finals for the National Championships Point Series is at Kelly’s Whitewater Park just upstream of the classic North Fork of the Payette run. The North Fork is running at 5,000 cfs and is big! A good friend of ours, Stephen Forester, just died on that run this past week. Going up there will be bitter sweet.
On Monday after the event I head to the Ottawa to teach for two weeks, coaching Keeners and teaching a clinic to the general public. I then fly into Salt Lake City for the Outdoor Retailer Show where we’ll show off our new 2012 product to dealers. The RV will then drive East to the Ottawa where we will paddle, fish, film, work and let the engine of the RV cool off. Then I do a new tour that I haven’t done before. Instead of Gauley Festival, GAF, etc.. it will be Europe again. Sickline Extreme race, London Olympic course opening, KanuMesse (the OR of Europe), and a Barcelona Show with Lluis. Cool! Variety is awesome and I am looking forward to it. Yes, I will miss going to the Gauley Fest and GAF, etc.., but am looking forward to another trip to Europe and to race in the Sickline race. That is motivation to be in racing shape. Sprints and endurance on the Ottawa (race across the flatwater every day), etc.. so that I’ll be in top shape for it. I am starting with a great base already, so I expect this to be a good race for me.
THEN, it is back to Rock Island. To my house, my first and last house of my life, I imagine, my dream house. While I love traveling in the RV, and traveling overseas, I also love a little bit of time where there aren’t new people each day, new locations, and a 24/7 schedule. Rock Island is a place I can get up and go out on the deck for a cup of coffee, play a round of disc golf, go paddle, and hang out with my family and spread out. Kristine can cook to her hearts desire, and I can eat to my hearts desire. We go from no showers or baths for a month at a time to a choice of a great shower or bath every day. We go from wearing dirty clothes over and over again, to having clean clothes always. We go from kids sleeping on the floor and sharing a fold out couch or table, to everyone in their own bed and bedroom. We go from not enough room at the table for dinner, to a table that seats 10. Water that doesn’t run out, electricity at all times, climate controlled environment, fast internet, etc.. This contrast is what makes coming home so awesome. It is also what makes hitting the road so awesome. By April we are all stir crazy and have cabin fever. We can’t wait to hit the road. By July 4th, we are still in RV heaven, but the house starts looking good again. By October I’ll be counting the days to get home. At home I still have some issues. My 1988 Landcruiser blew its engine this spring before we left. It is sitting dead in the water at the factory. I need to get it fixed before I get home. My fields weren’t taken care of this year yet, and playing disc golf, etc.. won’t be possible until they are cut and maintained. There are lots of things we need to do before we get home to make it a place we want to be. I’ll start thinking about this soon.
Kristine and Emily are walking down the dirt road towards me right now. They just finished a 1 hour run together. Almost breakfast time and then paddling!
Time to go. No point on being on my computer when I have my family to be with. KC is awake now, Dane and Courtney still sleeping. We’ll wake them up to get them off the table and couch so we can eat!