Local teen’s dream is taking off
July 23, 2008
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” For 17-year-old Michael “LP” Palmer, traveling the world to kayak is a dream. Over the past year, Palmer has lived his dream.
Growing up, his family split their time between “Springs.” Colorado Springs for most of the year and Glenwood Springs became home for the summers.
“I’m a Colorado boy,” he said with a smile. “Born and raised.”
The dream began at age 11 when his parents asked him if he wanted to take a kayaking class from the local Glenwood Canyon Kayak.
“Of course I said yes,” he explained. “I just really took to it.”
But that was just the beginning, the dream in its infancy.
Fast forward six years later, and he’s right in the thick of it. Already one of the best young paddlers in the sport, “LP” ” as his competitors and friends know him ” is living his dream.
Palmer has spent his annual summer break in Glenwood this year, paddling the rivers near town, and enjoying the newest addition to the Colorado River ” The Glenwood Springs Whitewater Park.
“This wave is by far the best feature in the country,” he said relaxing in the sun at a familiar coffee shop in Glenwood Springs. “When it was really high, it was just amazing. You could stay in there for as long as you wanted and stomp everything.”
Palmer is one of three paddlers in the junior men’s division on the U.S. National Kayak Team, he’s also on Team Jackson ” a pro-kayaking team and boat builder, who sponsors well-known paddlers such as Stephen Wright and Eric Jackson, the company’s founder.
Palmer has loved being so close to a great spot this summer in preparation for the Freestyle Kayak World Cup Competition in August. The three-day competition, over three weeks, will visit spots in Germany, the Czech Republic and Switzerland, Palmer said. This will be his first World Cup appearance and he’s more than excited about it.
“I’m so stoked. You have no idea,” he said, smile included.
He could have participated in the competition two years ago, but traditional school interfered with the competition and his parents didn’t think it was a good idea. This year he’s convinced them otherwise.
“This is one of my last years competing juniors before I’ve got to move up and compete in men’s pro,” Palmer said. “That’s going be a big step, so we’re going to do it up this year.”
Palmer qualified for World Cup by placing second at the 2007 U.S. National Team Trials in Virginia, he said. He leaves for the competition Aug. 5.
“I’m pretty stoked about missing the first month of school, too,” Palmer said.
But unlike more traditional students, Palmer is a student of the World Class Kayak Academy based in Crystal Springs, Mont. He does his studying of core subjects in algebra II, biology, and American literature between honing his skills on waves and holes on world-famous rivers.
He’s living his dream.
“We travel to all the top kayaking destinations in the world and go paddling,” Palmer said. “Then we do school on the beach, under a palm tree, or wherever we are. It’s awesome.”
Class sessions took the young paddler to Canada, Africa and South America last school year to paddle rivers such as the Ottawa, Zambezi and the White Nile. For Palmer it was not only an adventure, it was a learning experience not achieved in a classroom.
“It’s amazing you don’t hear more about it,” Palmer said. “I learned life skills while traveling the world pursing my passion.”
And it’s proven a sound investment in his career as well.
“Most of the top-ranked kids (in the sport) kayak all year round,” Palmer said. “I never had that opportunity because Colorado is seasonal for kayaking. Until last year, when I got to go to world class areas and got to paddle year round. Then, I really got to sprout my kayaking ability.”
He’ll catch up with his classmates after World Cup. And then it will be back to the books, under the palm trees and stomping waves around the world.
“It’s pretty amazing. I’m doing what I love and going to school and getting high school credit while doing it,” Palmer said. “I’m living the dream.”
Contact John Gardner: 384-9114
Post Independent, Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO