Raised On the River
For as long as I can remember, kayaking has been a way of life for my family and me. While my brothers and I were growing up, it wasn't unusual to see my parents Mike and Jody setting up a playpen in the parking lot at Banks on Idaho's Payette River.
One of our favorite family trips was an extended river trip down the Main Salmon in 2006. I was nine years old and paddled the whole time, Hayden was six years old and paddled the majority of the way, but my dad would pull him up on the raft around the big rapids and then push him back in.
|Connor was 3 years old at the time; he carried an inflatable Pirates of the Caribbean sword and rode on the raft with my dad and my grandma. Well, those days are gone and we are now all able to kayak as a family. |
My brothers (Hayden 10 years old, Connor 6 years old) and I (12 years old) all started kayaking when we each turned 6. While we were growing up, we spent a lot of time on the Payette River. But over the past couple of years, now that my brothers are able to paddle as well, we have spent some time traveling to new rivers and various park and play destinations.
|Payette River – Gutter Horseshoe Bend, Idaho|
|The Voorhees Brothers Paddling – Connor age 6 (green boat) Alec age 12 (orange boat) and Hayden age 10 (red boat)
© Mike Voorhees
|Being the oldest of three boys has given me the opportunity to help my dad and mom teach my brothers a thing or two about kayaking, playboating and competing. I have been able to teach Hayden how to loop and Connor tries to surf every little wave down the river even though he knows it will flip him over. I know that as they get older they are going to give me a run for my money. We really have a lot of fun paddling together as a family. |
Our first major trip of the year was to California with fellow NRS Ambassador Seth Stoenner, his dad Craig, my dad Mike and I along with a few others. We made several trips down Brush Creek and one trip down Dry Meadow Creek.
|The scenery was amazing and the rock formations were very cool. One of the things that I really like about kayaking is you get to see places in the world that most people will never see. |
My first competition was at the age of eight in Jackson Hole, Wyoming on the Snake River; the water was really high and there were really no waves to surf. That same summer I met Eric Jackson and Joe Jacobi. I will never forget having Joe's Olympic Gold Medal around my neck. It was what really sparked my desire to compete.
|The coolest rock formations you will ever see – Dry Meadow Creek, California. © Mike Voorhees|
Alec styling a Space Godzilla at the Reno River Fest © Craig Stoenner |My next competition was the following summer at the Reno Whitewater River Festival. I entered the junior competition and competed against Dane Jackson, Jason Craig and Johnathan Shales. Just a few short years later, I was paddling for NRS and Jackson Kayak. In 2009 Hayden and I competed in the Reno River Festival, US Team Trials at Glenwood Springs, Lyons Outdoor Games and Fibark. I also competed in the men's pro class at the Teva Mountain Games.|
Connor and Mike at the Reno River Fest ©Craig Stoenner
Hayden doing a Back Loop at the Reno River Fest
|Growing up in Boise also give us the advantage of being able to paddle with a lot of good friends. We started out in a small group which has grown into what is now called Idaho River Kids and consists of about 40 kids ages 5-18 that participate regularly. It was not like this in Boise when I first started kayaking: there was only one girl that was 3 years older than me at my first pool session. Now we hold regular events during the summer as part of the World Kayak Hometown Throwdown Competitions.|
Party Surf after Hometown Throwdown ©Gary Wilson
Alec Voorhees (Alec Voorhees age 12) Big Falls Canyon Section Payette River ©Stephanie Viselli |2009 was quite an adventure filled summer, with a lot of personal first descents, trips to new states and several major junior competitions, in which both Hayden and I competed. I ran several waterfalls but the best one was Big Falls on the South Fork of the Payette River Canyon Section. I am the youngest one to have run this that I know of. I have continued to learn more tricks in freestyle kayaking including the McNasty, a Lunar Orbit and I am working on the Phonix Monkey. Fellow NRS paddler Devon Barker and I spent a lot of time together with my little brothers in Colorado and Nevada this summer going to the whitewater parks, playing and working on freestyle.|
For my first 7th grade math assignment this fall we had to summarize our summer into numbers. It went a little something like this: Number of Competitions – 10, Number of Different Kayaks paddled – 5 , Number of Sponsors – 2, Number of Rivers Kayaked – 13, Number of States traveled to Kayak – 6, Number of Miles Driven on our way to the river – 7,918 and Number of Hours in the car with two little brothers – 144 hours and 59 minutes – not that I was counting! Best summer of my life – Priceless. You will likely find me this summer at the new whitewater play park in Cascade, Idaho.
Looking forward to seeing you all on the river in 2010,
NRS Ambassador Team