Monday, May 26, 2014

A Paddler's Journey - book update

A little while ago I announced my new book project (post here). The title is A PADDLER'S JOURNEY and it's a collection of paddling stories that chronicles my progression through the sport while also showing how I grew as a person because of it. The writing's going well and I've finished about ten chapters, each a slice of my paddling career. It's been a lot of fun going back to relive past events and really think about what I've learned and how I've changed.

As a writer, I'm always a little hesitant to share a rough draft. Things can change a lot between the first time you jot something down and when it all comes together in a final version. There's lot of editing left to do, cleaning the grammar and constructions, weaving themes throughout the whole, that ultimately leads to a better reading experience. But this blog has always been more about me sharing my thoughts than polishing and editing the text. So I figure I can share a little bit as I go and hopefully people will enjoy the ideas and recognize that the book will have the polish you have the right to expect.

I'll post updates and excerpts as I can and I'd love to hear what people think and get some feedback on what works and what doesn't. Do people want carnage stories? Humor? Graphic details or philosophical ramblings? I'd like to think it will have a bit of everything and please hard-core paddlers and interest those who've never been in a boat. Here's a taste from the opening chapter:

A Paddler's Journey - Chapter 1 Excerpt

In the distorted memory of childhood, I see a giant flotilla of canoes stretching endlessly down the grand waterway. An honest reckoning would be more like twenty canoes scattered along several miles of a peaceful stream. Whatever the count, we passed many and found ourselves near the front of the pack. The odd thing is, by that time I no longer worried about winning. The joy of paddling had taken over.

The splash of the water, the rhythm of the strokes, the cool breeze bringing scents of milkweed and wild sage, combined to sooth my spirit and erase any thoughts of competition. It wasn’t merely the happiness of being out on the water with friends and family, but also a delight in the skill, the sense of knowing how to do something and doing it well, making a connection with the water and using its power instead of fighting it. My family worked as a team and not everyone else did. We possessed something special and had earned it through our experience. I didn’t have the maturity to understand and express such thoughts, but they existed within me. That’s what made me happy.

At the top of the biggest rapid, my dad pulled us into an eddy to wait for the trailing boats. I didn’t complain. The race was over; we had already won. It wasn’t about coming in first but about being paddlers. And paddlers watch out for each other. We sat there and enjoyed the moment, I waved to the kids going past, and my dad gave advice to the adults. Hot dogs and potato salad waited downstream, but they could wait.

When the last stragglers approached the rapid, we started down with them. It was a shallow, rocky affair, with swift current that pushed boats towards the outside of the bend. As any boater knows, you need to keep the nose pointed downstream and stay to the deepest water. Even such a simple plan was beyond the capabilities of these neophytes, and in short order one of the other canoes broached sideways, bouncing unevenly over the river’s bed and doomed to be pinned on the rocks ahead.

My dad called forward paddle and I dug in with all the strength my slight frame possessed. We quickly caught up and my brother grabbed their bow, pulling it downstream with us. I turned to watch with a mixture of understanding and awe as my dad leaned all his weight onto his paddle to keep us straight, and our momentum swung the other boat into line. Side by side we floated until I sliced my blade in and let the water separate us. With room to steer, we both avoided the rocks and made it safely to the bottom of the rapid. 

Instead of savoring our heroics, my dad steered us towards an empty canoe floating down the river with a father and daughter swimming nearby. They must have flipped with no one around to save them. Once again we charged in with deft strokes to reach the pair quickly. My brother heaved the girl into our boat while my dad and I steered. The man in the water hung on to our stern as we chased down their wayward boat and bulldozed it to shore. I leapt to the grassy bank and grabbed the empty boat while the swimmer caught his breath. My dad smiled at me and I glowed with pride.

Time spent draining the boat and sorting out its passengers allowed everyone to pass us by. We started last and finished last. No one else noticed; nor did they say who came in first, or even talk as if a race took place. Yet I still felt like a winner as I ran around the park, slurping sodas and devouring watermelon. To this day I feel compelled to help everyone get ready before we launch. I lift the boats for those who might have difficulty on their own. I work out the shuttle logistics, just so we get on water a little faster. I learned more than the joy of paddling that from my dad that day. Much more.   


This is from the first chapter, my career on the water starting in a canoe. Makes me want to grab a single-blade and hunk of Royalex and head up-river through the Redwoods. I hope it inspires others to get out there and enjoy the magnificent world. Maybe take your kids with you if you go :)


  1. I really like this. Carnage, humour, graphic detail, and philosophical ramblings are all part of the paddling experience. I suggest a healthy dose of each. Keep at it!

  2. Nicely done, if you keep the quality and style I will read it all! I liked you transmitted the joy of the day in that excerpt. Well done.