OK, so the economy is pretty sluggish and we’re all tightening our belts. My husband is facing his second layoff in less than six months. Most of us are scaling back plans for big trips and vacations. That doesn’t have to mean that this will be a dull, gloomy, unremarkable year. Try something new! I may not be going to the Arctic this year, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to have fun and hopefully look back on this paddling season as one of the best. Obviously, I’m trying something new by starting this business. I’ve been learning and doing things I never imagined I would be doing – like writing a blog and maintaining a website. This past week, my friend, Kevin, decided to try running an easy section of the Wolf River in an open whitewater canoe even though he had never been in one before. Trying something new made a familiar and rather easy section of the river seem more exciting and challenging again. You can do the same. Make this the year that you improve your bracing, learn to roll, or try kayaking for the first time. For the veteran kayakers out there, maybe you should try learning to canoe or take a beginning whitewater kayaking class. Becoming a beginner again can make your time on the water as exciting as it was when you first started.
Two weeks ago, I went up to the Wolf River to participate in the Marge Cline/Ray McLain Memorial Races sponsored by the Bear Paw Outdoor Adventure Resort. I raced for the first time last year, but this year I went up to help out with the set-up of the slalom course. I spent most of one day helping Scott Berry and Brian Heikenen work their butts off trying to string slalom gates across a section of the Wolf River. These guys had already been at it for a day before I showed up. They weren’t getting paid to do this. The race fee was only $10 per person, so no one was getting rich off this race, at least not monetarily. The participants who got to spend the day honing their skills by running the gates were getting richer in the wealth of experience, social interaction, and skill improvement. While it was a sunny day, it was a little chilly. Several women sat for 3-4 hours without a break trying to stay warm while they timed racers, judged gates, and recorded scores. Guess what, they weren’t getting paid either. I suspect they were doing it for the sake of spouses, kids, and friends who are paddlers and would appreciate having the opportunity to compete. This 2-day race event is a fitting tribute to Marge Cline and Ray McLain whose names are synonymous with giving back to paddle sports. I had the good fortune to know Marge Cline. She was one of my instructors when I was getting my certification to teach canoeing. A little rough and crusty around the edges, Marge had a heart of gold and was known for all the volunteer work she did for the ACA and kids groups. I must confess that I didn’t know who Ray McLain was, until one of the racers filled me in with a brief synopsis. Ray spent a lot of time, and his own money, helping kids to learn how to paddle and especially how to race. He had a motor home that he used to shuttle kids around to races. I think Marge and Ray would be pleased to see their names associated with an event that is so filled with a volunteer spirit. If you have the chance next year, attend the races on the Wolf River. If you can’t make it, or you’re not a whitewater paddler, you can participate in your own Marge Cline/Ray McLain event by giving something back to paddle sports. Become an instructor. Volunteer at a symposium. Take a kid kayaking. Make Marge and Ray proud.
Time to get wet!