I am 20 years old and I have been kayaking twice. Up until writing this blog, I always considered my first experience with kayaking to be a negative one. I was in 5th grade and my friend, Katie, invited my father and me to join her and her dad to spend the day river kayaking. The weather that day was horrible, it was cold and I can remember it was drizzling. We did this in Ellicott City, MD and I hated every minute of it. I was very small and it was difficult for me to paddle. My arms burned the entire time making it miserable for me. I cried and whined to my dad wanting to get out of the kayak. When I look back on this day, I think about how difficult it must be for a wounded warrior to kayak. It takes so much bravery and strength to kayak and I think it is amazing that these people are able to get in the water regardless of the pain they are enduring.
My second experience with kayaking was much more pleasant for me. This was an ocean-kayaking experience. Around the age of 18, I was spending time with my friend Claire and her family in the Outer Banks, NC. Her family had a tradition of renting two-person kayaks and doing relay races with them. The challenge split the family into two teams. In pairs, you had to paddle out to the nearest buoy then paddle back to shore and switch off to the next pair. I had a blast doing this and recommended to my family to do a similar activity during our vacations. I was so proud of my team for being able to kayak so fast (because it is extremely hard work).
When Team River Runner hosts kayaking events and competitions, the participants probably feel a similar proudness I felt that day in the Outer Banks. It takes an incredible amount of strength to get in the water and paddle. It gives wounded warriors a chance to compete and have fun to support a great cause. It is a unique way to get wounded service members involved in the community through a really cool activity.
Kayaking is different for everyone. For Katie’s family, it was a hobby. For my dad it was a one-time deal. For 10 year-old-me it was a horrible day. For Claire’s family it was a tradition. For older me, it was a sense of pride. For Team River Runner it is hope. Kayaking is such an awesome way to support wounded service members. I hope to see it continue to be beneficial in the future and maybe I can create a kayaking tradition in my family in the future.