Pointers from a precocious paddler
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
I was recently schooled. On the river. By a 7-year-old.
Hey, it could be worse.
A 7-year-old could show me up while solving story problems. Or hula hooping. And playing the Game of Life – my favorite board game from childhood and the Milton Bradley board game formerly known as The Checkered Game of Life. Not nearly as entertaining as The Checkered Past Game of Life.
It’s hard to be a winner at that one.
This weekend I discovered one activity in which I lack game. And it has nothing to do with how many pink-and-blue plastic peg-shaped kids ride in the back of my car. Think a stand-up paddleboard, the Colorado River, and the balance of an uncoordinated stilt walker.
And a 7-year-old with better river skills than most adults I know.
The day started out simply enough, with an easy float in a mini-me raft with Deja and Kendra through Glenwood Canyon. We pulled up to No Name for a quick swim and ran into a boat full of Deja’s friends, the Burr family. The dad, Tim Burr – yeah, that’s right – quickly recognized me from the paper.
“Hey, aren’t you April from the paper?” he asked.
“I’ve been waiting to meet you on the river since you like to write about it so much,” he said.
If he only knew at the time his boys would later end up the moral of a story.
His oldest son, Tim, was celebrating his 14th birthday with a new present – a shiny new stand-up paddleboard he was kind enough to share with the group. Never one to pass up an opportunity to try something new, and taking advantage of No Name still water, I hopped on and gave it a whirl. Not foregoing my PFD (personal flotation device for the non-river speakers), I gave a go at it. I made an easy circle around the eddy, and of course ended up bottom first in the river. But I thought it was fun and wanted to try again later. Enter the 7-year-old who can swim – and stand-up paddleboard – circles around me.
Reason 368 to raise kids in Colorado.
I obviously gained an air of confidence because I decided to paddle out a little farther than my previous session. Like Donnie Wahlberg in 1990, I was hanging tough. At least I thought I was. With my wobbly bird legs, I imagine I looked a lot like a chicken. Of course there are pictures to prove it. I have the Burr matriarch, Jennifer, to thank.
That’s a mental picture Kendra and Deja can’t quite get out of their heads.
I was feeling pretty awesome about this stand-up paddling thing, so I headed a bit downriver from the eddy. That’s when I catch the current.
Let the fun begin.
I’d like to say I had complete control of the situation and let my intuitive river skills take control. But as soon as I hit that current I lost my balance, and in I went.
Of course the shiny new paddleboard went on past me, and all I could see was $500 floating down the river. The birthday boy and his friend Robert were in the mini me, and quickly paddled to retrieve the board. I swam over to a rock feeling much like a poser.
Let the schooling begin.
Seven-year-old Shane Michael Burr – who specifically requests a full name reference when this story is retold – jumped in his ducky (inflatable kayak for the non-river speakers) to fetch me off the rock.
Not embarrassing at all.
“I’m going to save her!” he yelled out.
He has serious swift water rescue team written all over him.
I didn’t exactly need saving since I was sitting on a rock in knee-deep water. But I couldn’t say no to a ride in a ducky with a 7-year-old who knows more about the river than me. This kid is as river smart as a 31-year-old Blue Sky raft guide named Deja. He could probably show me up on the comedy stage, too.
I jumped in the ducky, and we headed off to meet up with Timmy, his friend and the paddleboard. Shane was in charge, and did not appreciate my attempts to help work our way through a rapid with the long-shaft paddle.
“Do you want me to take that away from you?” he asked.
Trust me, this 7-year-old was as serious as a first responder.
Humbled, I let the paddle rest so Shane could do all the work. We soon hit an eddy and waited for the boats behind us to roll in. Kendra and Deja were still laughing as they came to a rest. And that’s how I was schooled. On the river.
By a 7-year-old.
April E. Clark is one day shy of her next stand-up appearance at 8 p.m. Thursday at Loyal Brothers Lounge in downtown Glenwood Springs. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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