Today’s Pro Kayaker Image

Leif Anderson dropping into Vallacito Creek, CO. Leif is a big imposing guy, but he is probably one of the friendliest and smartest people you’ll ever meet. He also happens to be a very talented paddler.

Bitches, spliffs, bootie beers, 40’s, shots, gang signs, guns, big injuries and general disrespect. Is this really what it means to be a pro boater? The guys at the forefront of WW kayaking have always been hardened souls and for the most part the hardest partiers. I think the mentality required to charge that hard on difficult WW day in and day out is probably very similar to taking risks day in and day out with drugs and alcohol. It seems that a large majority of pro kayakers these days charge hard both on and off the river while a small percentage of our sport’s elite keep the big risk taking to the river.

An example of this party animal portrayal of our sport is the recent movie release of “Pleasure Stokes” (Not Safe for Work!) by Balls Deep Productions. I can’t endorse the movie because I belive that it does not shine a positive light on our sport or provide healthy aspirations for our sport’s youth. On the other hand, there is no disputing the big cojones and skills that these paddlers demonstrate by running some of the hardest rapids and biggest drops on the planet. I know and have paddled with a number of paddlers in the film and can honestly say that these are good people out there having a good time. I fully respect the right for everyone to follow their own path and find happiness in their own way. I know that a lot of times I wish I could find a way to party and charge as hard as these guys.

Todd and Sam attempt the highest ever Topo Duo waterfall descent, Metlako Falls, OR.

I do believe that there are still role models out there that are pushing boundaries while making a positive impact on the history and future of our sport. Paddlers like Stephen Wright, Jason Craig, Clair O’Hara, Spencer Cook, Joey Hall, Kim Russel, Pat Keller, Jason Beaks and many many others are all amazing athletes who know how to have a good time and can still be admired by the youth in our sport for the right reasons.

Kim Becker (Russel) charges down Trout Creek, WA. She is a strong athlete and always has an infectious smile.

Media attention will always be drawn to the biggest characters doing the craziest things, this is just the way of the world. I hope that the sport of WW kayaking can find a balance between these big personalities and the more relatable athletes in our sport. I think the future growth of the sport relies on a healthier and less extreme public perception of what it means to be a WW kayaker.

(This will be a big talking point at the 2012 WW Symposium and I know they would love to hear your voice. Attend and join the discussion.)

[pullquote align=”left|center|right” textalign=”left|center|right” width=”30%”]I POSE THE QUESTION: Why do drugs, alcohol and disrespect for women tend to be the public image portrayed by pro athletes in nich sports?[/pullquote]

I’ve always wanted to be a professional athlete, and for the past 13 yrs that desire has been focused at WW kayaking. I have wanted the freedom to travel the world, experience amazing places only kayakers are able to access, make my mark on the industry, quench my competitive thirst and make a living doing what makes me happy. Sadly my natural abilities, or lack there of, and some injuries have not allowed me to reach the top of the sport.  I have however still strived to fill my life with all the things that I wanted to get out of being a pro WW kayaker. I have built and/or run a number of businesses in the WW paddling industry with varying degrees of success, thus trying to achieve the goals of getting paid doing what I love and making an impact on the industry. I currently live in a van full of adventure sports gear exploring the world. While traveling I compete in a lot of kayaking events and have focused lately on rising to the top of the Surf Kayaking ranks. I’m still working on the “making a living” part, but I’m confident that I’ll find my way and get to live life the way I want. Life is WAY to short and my body isn’t getting any younger or less beat up. I’ve had way too many friends die in the past few years to waste my life in a cubicle!

Me staring down some monsters at the 2012 Santa Cruz Paddle Surf Festival.

Please find your own balance of risk and reward and know that adventure sports are supposed to be fun. Get out there, explore and push what ever personal boundaries make you feel alive.

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