Kids Kayaking: Happiness & Fun at 2018 US Nationals in Columbus, GA

After a couple weeks hanging out in TN running our favorite rivers, we were ready to start focusing on the purpose of our trip. We were excited to be heading toward Columbus, GA where the 2018 US Nationals were being held.  The air was warm, the water was warm, and it’s typically a great place for all of us to enjoy the river.

Last year was the first year Nationals was held in Columbus. This year Elly and Coby were determined to get their rolls and Emmy wanted to run the Wave Shaper over and over to help her get past her fear of flipping. In the end they all ran Wave Shaper. Emmy got a gazillion combat rolls. Elly and Coby got their bomber combat bails and Elly even got a roll in the eddy.

Kids Kayaking 2018 Us Nationals
Elly and Coby practicing their bails.

I was excited to see them in the water, laughing and having fun. Because, while we do compete in a lot of competitions, like the 2018 US Nationals, we kayak because it’s fun. The competitions are fun. Party surfing is fun. Running rivers is fun. It’s just all fun.

When we finally arrived in Columbus, from Tennessee, we were surprised to see so many RV’s already camped out in the lot designated for competitors. Surprised, but excited to see so many friends already there.

Kids Kayaking US Nationals
So many fun loving, like-minded peeps came out to Nationals this year!

As soon as my dad parked the RV we all jumped out and got our gear, grabbed our kayaks and longboarded down to the wave.  We used this session, and pretty much all the rest, to get used to our playboats and everything once again because we have not been kayaking for like 7 months!

Kady, Kenny & Dally were last in boats 5 months prior because they made the US Team and got to compete in Argentina at Worlds. Still, that’s a long time considering everyone else kayaks year round … something I would love to do too, but I can’t imagine giving up snowboarding and hockey. Plus, there is no water in Colorado in the winter.

But, we kayaked like crazy the 4 days before the comp. We brought the whole family down every day and just spent hours playing. One of my favorite times was when it got dark and the lights came on. It was super scary because the lights lit up the wave and only a few feet behind it and NOT the entire length of the water you paddle after flushing. But scary is often fun, and it was sooo fun.

On Saturday and Sunday 2018 U.S Nationals were held. There were so many spectators. It was funny because a lot of people introduced their kids to me and said they had been following us for a long time. They said we inspired them to get their kids into kayaking. That is so cool to me. I would love to see more kids paddling because it’s the most fun thing to do ever. Especially in the summer, especially if you live in Columbus, where it gets crazy hot. The only thing I’d ever want to do is be in the water!

Kids Kayaking US Nationals
It was cold and rainy all day, so we hung out under the rafts!

Anyway, a lot of people came and went those days, even though it was crazy cold! The weather was rainy and the air chilly.

We had super low expectations for winning, but high to have fun and, obviously do our best.  I was really happy to get 4th in cadet women. What I would love to see is a National King of the Wave competition. I would win. Every time. I love love party surfing and knocking everyone off the wave! If you haven’t tried this, you have to. Serious fun.

Kids Kayaking US Nationals
Getting ready for my ride!

Kenny and Dally and Cardy were disappointed in their rides, but I told them they did awesome and they got over it in like 5 minutes. Kenny got 3rd, and Dally got 2nd, and Cardy 7th in Junior men they all did amazing, really.

Jacob, Dally and Kenny … Junior Men’s Podium

My younger brother, Rowdy also got 4th in cadet men. This is super cool because he basically just started competing last year and he did awesome. I mean, everyone did awesome, everyone who competed did so great and it was so fun, which is all that matters. Win or lose, who cares, just have fun … that’s our motto.

Which is a great motto, cuz if you are not having fun, you’ll never get better, you’ll never progress and staying the same at anything kinda stinks. You know? You want to keep improving in whatever you do, so it has to be fun.

Kids Kayaking US Nationals
I love hanging out with this crazy, fearless kid.

After the competition ended within an hour everyone, and I mean everyone, who competed  in the competition disappeared. Like, literally everyone left. They all were heading to NOC, another super fun place that is great to paddle, but we weren’t going there, we had other plans, which includedsun and fun at Gulf Shores in a few days!  

We practically had the whole place to ourselves the next day. The wave and everything. We were the only ones there. We helped Coby and Elly get more used to bailing with their skirts on. Cardy, Rowdy and I tried to make each other swim. We paddled Wave Shaper, we surfed and we ran the river, including Cut Bait.

My mom even jumped on Good Wave 1000 times and she killed it. She had so much fun surfing Good Wave that she didn’t want to leave. She had so much fun surfing Good Wave, we didn’t do all the PR stuff we were supposed to do! My mom totally bailed on work … for kayaking!

It’s fun to watch my younger brothers and sisters (and my mom) discover how much fun kayaking is. There is a fear factor, which for some people is greater than others, but once you get past that hump, nothing holds you back. It becomes something you want to do all day everyday.

The dynamics of my younger siblings is funny. Elly and Coby key off each other. Coby usually does things first. But Elly has to agree to do it. Once she says yes, Coby will be the first to try it, which gives Elly the opportunity to see how it all goes down.

Like Wave Shaper, for example. Its big and burly, the possibility to flip is huge, which is fine, it’s fun. So, Coby and Elly were kinda on the fence. But, we convinced Elly to say yes, so Coby said yes and he was the first to run the rapid!  LOL.He flipped and bailed, we all got him and all his gear out and he was smiling huge. This gave Elly confidence and the exact same scenario occurred with her! It was great.

My Dad did rolls with Emmy who just started doing her role last year. She got it every time she tried, which is crazy because I remember just last year she was just as scared to flip as Coby and Elly are now.  But now she is rolling over and over. She even did this thing that my mom and I do … we roll over and over and see how many linked rolls you can do. It’s fun, but it makes you super dizzy.

I kept trying to surf Wave Shaper, then Ollie, then Good Wave. Ollie is super hard to catch, but I managed to surf all three waves a few times.

Emmy was pretty hesitant about running Wave Shaper. I get it because it looks pretty intimidating and it does flip a lot of paddlers. My dad had to push her a little to get her to agree to do it. She was pretty scared, but she trusts us all. She did a practice roll at the top eddy and then peeled out of the Eddy, following Rowdy down.

Wave Shaper did not flip her!  But then, she hit Ollie and she flipped after surfing it for a few seconds. This is where she got her first ever combat roll. We were all screaming and yelling and cheering. It was so cool, I was so happy for her.

Kids Kayaking: Fun in Columbus, GA

When she got back to the bottom, my mom was waiting and gave her high fives and hugs and Emmy was smiling huge. I could tell she was super proud of her combat roll.

When you are teaching kids about kayaking, it’s so important that it just stays fun and that bad scenarios are avoided. So, while we nudge the little kids to try stuff, we don’t ever put them in situations that could actually be bad. That’s where Columbus is awesome. The water is warm and we can all swim the rapids, so you know it’s safe as long as you wear a PFD and a helmet.

The next day there was no water and so we decided to go run Mulberry Creek which was about 30 minutes from where we were parked. Kenny called a friend to see if it was running and the friend said it was very low, runnable, but super scrapey and rocky and he said something about a girl scout camp being angry. I don’t know, but we decided we didn’t have enough beta and it didn’t sound like it would be as epic as if the water was high and so we decided not to run it.

The bummer is my parents decided it would be a great day for school and getting work and blogs done. We also took showers. Big HUGE props to Outside World Columbs and Whitewater Express for being so awesome and letting us use your showers. This is appreciated more than you will ever know!

Kids Kayaking: Fun and Happiness
A good friend and fellow JK boater, Jeremy Adkins. Emmy & Elly love him.

The next two days were the same as the first. Coby, Elly and Emmy ran Wave Shaper a bunch. We surfed Good Wave and practiced flatwater tricks.

When we got packed up to go, my brother Dally got to drive the truck because he has his permit. My dad jumped in the driver seat of the RV, my mom in the passenger seat of the trcuk and we drove out of Columbus, super proud of each other. But especially proud of Elly and Coby bailing, Emmy getting her combat roll. So much happiness going around, it’s awesome


Leave a Comment