Words by Ruth Eipper
Photos by Terry Standlee
Last year I was lucky enough to meet some paddlers on the river that invited me to Colorado Whitewater's Training Camp. As a beginner kayaker, I was a little nervous to sign up. I was unsure of what classes to take, and if I would be the only person there without a group of friends to mingle with. One quick email later and I was assured not to worry if I needed to switch classes later and to show up ready to have a good time.
I arrived at training camp early Friday evening and ran into some of the more seasoned paddlers I had met before. We shared a beer by the river while they swapped stories about what they paddled on the Ark earlier that day before showing up to help lead trips for the weekend. Everyone mingled all evening, talking about what they were hoping to get out of camp, and I soon realized I fit right into the mix just fine. We ended the night around a projector watching kayak porn and relaxing under the stars before walking back to our campsites to prep for morning.
The next morning everyone gathered in a big group and split into classes for the day. Everyone shared their experience and shuffled around into groups for their skill level. The first day on the river was a blast, shaking off nerves and getting to know everyone in the group better. That night we came back to an amazing dinner and live music by the fire. I definitely didn’t have to worry about being the odd one out at camp as I danced and talked with new and old friends, while once again swapping stories of accomplishments and carnage from the day.
The second morning started fairly similar (with a good majority moving a little slower after the party the night before). We had another amazing meal for breakfast and came together for the raffle. Tons of local shops donate gear and other fun goodies as prizes. I wasn’t a winner (this time) but many others I had met during the weekend were, including one lucky winner of a brand new boat!
After another day of paddling and having a blast on the river (with some carnage and a missing shoe thrown into the mix), I swapped numbers with the group and made plans to paddle again the next day. My biggest takeaway from the weekend was by far increasing my circle of paddling buddies and being able to boat together even now.
I would recommend training camp to anyone looking to learn more as well as seasoned paddlers looking to come join the party (don’t forget your beer, the nearest store is pretty far away!). There are options including playboating and becoming more confident on class IV for the more experienced as well as the choice to come volunteer as safety on the river or even just join for the party and music while paddling whatever you choose during the day. Salida and BV are close by for whatever suits your fancy on the Ark. This year’s band is Chain Station, an amazing bluegrass group, and food will be served by our amazing caterer Brian Sweeney!
This year I am super excited to return to Training Camp as an instructor and to share the stoke as others did for me last year!
Register for 2017 Training Camp May 19-21.
Ruth Eipper has been kayaking since 2015 and recently became certified as an ACA instructor. Her favorite runs to paddle are definitely Foxton and the Numbers.