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WATERLINES BY TIM GALLAWAY


WHERE ARE ALL THE YOUNG PEOPLE PADDLING?


I’m right here. I’ve been a sea kayak guide since I was 19 (I’m 23 now) but I wonder where are the other paddlers my age. Most of the people I instruct are twice my age. It seems as though the sea kayaking crowd is older and it’s white-


water that attracts younger, adrenaline-seekers. Perhaps this stems from the fact that often, people who get into sea kayaking are look- ing for a relaxing activity. Drifting quietly across a placid stretch of water sounds calming for many parents, but for their kids this might just mean being bored to tears. I learned to kayak


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in a bubble—a knowl- edge bubble. All I knew is what I had been taught in a few pool sessions and figured out on my own. My transition into guiding was the big bang of my paddling career and the beginning of the expansion of my skills. Suddenly, there was so much out there for me to discover. I learned of the Tsunami Rangers and watched all of the This is the Sea movies; there was Dubside, Maligiaq and QajaqUSA; I visited symposiums and joined the ACA. I rolled and surfed, went on expeditions and taught, and I did it all from the same kayak. The more I learned about the paddling world the more I realized that it’s impossible to define the kayaking experience as simply as most people do. The view that kayaking should be purely about slowing down is


To get younger people into the sport, it needs to be seen as exciting and challenging,


requiring us to let go of the stereotypical


notions of flat water and sunrises


too cut and dry, in my opinion. I get shudders from many sea kayak- ers when I explain what being back-endered in surf is like, yet noth- ing but praise from my whitewater paddling friends. To get younger people into the sport, it needs to be seen as exciting and challenging, requiring us to let go of the stereotypical notions of flat water and sunrises, and accept the multiple facets of sea kayaking. I choose not to look at sea kayaking as any one of these aspects


but as a means to having fun, no matter what that may imply. That’s what gets me excited about kayaking—it is whatever I want to make it. You can be young or old, an expert or a novice, Euro or Green- land, enjoy the rough and tumble world of surf and rock gardens or the quiet Zen of glowing sunsets and still be a happy paddler. Many even find an adrenaline rush and Zen in the same moment. When we choose to look at kayaking in this light, stereotypes disappear. The challenge is trying something new. Trying different boats,


paddles, partners and routes. Sea kayaking doesn’t have to fit any- one’s archetype, nor should it. We run the risk of letting the pad- dling world stagnate by having too many rules, stereotypes and ex- pectations. Try a Greenland paddle in a surf ski or a wing paddle in a skin-on-frame. Try a playboat or an SUP. Find your own balance of adrenaline and Zen. Tim Gallaway is an ACA level 4 instructor, a Greenland-style


paddler, expedition sea kayaker, whitewater paddler, kayak guide and freshly graduated engineer.


14 ADVENTURE KAYAK | EARLY SUMMER 2012


PHOTO: RICK MATTHEWS


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