JOY! Seeing The WW World Through a Child’s Eyes

JOY!

Seeing The Whitewater World Through a Child’s Eyes

Words: Bobby Miller / Photos: Bobby Miller, Melissa Miller, Annie Aldrich & Bryon Dorr / Videos: Bobby Miller & Brett Mayer

“Live for the journey, not the destination.”

The splash of the water, the pull of the current, the thrill of the ride! The journey down the river brings countless waves, rocks, and chutes, all of which is a new experience. To see it all through a child’s eyes teaches a lesson long forgotten in the bustle and hurry of adulthood.

Spending time on the river with my 5 year old daughter Sahalie has rekindled a feeling of making the most out of each individual part of your adventure. Too often, I rush up the river and down the river, I attain for fun and exercise and regularly squeeze in a couple laps at Great Falls, before rushing to the next activity. I hammer out the moves, blurring an afternoon’s worth of rapids into one frantic moment. The true enjoyment in paddling comes from savoring the time on the water and finding joy in every experience.

I began kayaking with my daughter when she was one year old, riding in the cockpit of my boat with me down easy streams. As the years passed, we stepped up our game to small rapids, and eventually some of the best Class 3 runs in the Mid-Atlantic in the “Daddy/Daughter Boat,” our Topo Duo. Late last year, Sahalie got a Dagger Axiom 6.9, and I was very excited to see what new adventures this would bring.

We have mixed our adventures between the two boats this year, and all have been equally special. Early spring runs on the Hopeville and Smokehole Canyons and a late summer Lower Yough trip were our highlights in the Daddy/Daugher Boat. Learning to paddle the Axiom has been a slower process, that began with me towing her down the river (per her request). We gradually have broken away from the rope tow, and now Sahalie is able to paddle her boat on her own.

My proudest moment so far paddling with Sahalie happened recently when she took her Axiom down the Needles section of the Potomac River, my local Class 1-2 run. It was a beautiful day with warm temperatures and ample sunshine. Joining us were Pete and Sheila Chapelle, who have raised a large family of kayakers, and Annie Aldrich, who Sahalie absolutely adores because of her cheerful and friendly demeanor.

I have discovered that the key to creating a happy atmosphere with Sahalie on the river is to give her swimming and splashing opportunities. We did a little swimming at the putin, and then paddled across the flat water to where the first of many small rapids starts. Sahalie was nervous at this point and wanted to float with me. I talked her into trying a rapid and her confidence started to grow. She paddled intentionally at rocks she saw, trying to “boof” like her daddy.

After a mile of rapids, we pulled over at a large rock outcrop to take a swim break. Jumping off the rocks was so much fun and I think Sahalie would have stayed there all day if I had let her. Soon, we were back in our boats and continued downstream where the river necks down more with bigger waves. Each splash and crash of the waves brought another smile to her face. At the town of Harpers Ferry, we pulled off at some rocks and swam some more, enjoying the thrill of swimming in the current.

The patience of our group, along with their willingness to help watch over her, made this day even more special. She was having the time of her life and the support of our group of friends allowed us to relax and soak it all in. Time stood still, and for a few hours we enjoyed the happiness that each moment provided. Heading into the final stretch of the run, we finished with the biggest rapid of the day, 100 Yard Dash. Sahalie masterfully wove her way through the rocks and over the chutes like a seasoned kayaker. We hopped out and swam the final stretch to the takeout. It was a trip that I never wanted to end. Seeing the joy on Sahalie’s smiling face filled my heart with a deep gladness, knowing that I was sharing a sport that I love with my daughter.

As Sahalie’s paddling season draws to a close, I can’t help but feel a sense of excitement for our future trips. Spending time with Sahalie in any capacity is a magical experience for me as a father. Being on the river with her brings a happiness beyond measure, and rekindles a spirit of newness and limitless possibilities that we should all hope to know.

Now get outside and take your kid whitewater kayaking!

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