|Kayaking students learn the important techniques of the outdoor adventure.|
During the past year, over 60 Carbon County residents have learned to kayak at the Price City swimming pool courtesy of the local county recreation program.
Carbon County Recreation director Steve Christensen said there have been a few people who have taken the workshop who haven't been able to learn to roll, but not many.
In fact, Christensen says that most of the students learn to roll the kayak by the second or third lesson.
Last summer 13 graduates of the workshop took a more advanced class, which included a trip on the Green River.
"It's a thrill to see a person succeed. The first time a person is upside down in the water, trapped in a kayak, they think there is no way they will ever be able to get the boat upright. But, using the techniques we teach them, most people find it's not as difficult as it first seems," explained Christensen.
Christensen also said that the program started about a year ago, when his son Bo, an avid kayaker, suggested they start kayak lessons.
"At first I was reluctant because the agency had no kayaks or equipment," confessed Christensen.
Although the younger Christensen offered to use his own set of kayaks, the elder Christensen refused because two just were not enough to begin a successful program.
Since no other recreation agency offers kayak lessons, Christensen was perplexed as to how to begin such a community program.
The Carbon County agency came up with $1,000 to start the program. Wasatch Touring from Salt Lake City made the agency an exceptionally good deal on two used kayaks, skirts, and paddles. Now the agency had four kayaks available, and the program was off and running.
Since they had never done this before, the Christensens had some learning of their own to do.
They started by studying everything they could find, and at the same time giving free lessons to the pool lifeguards.
"The lifeguards were great guinea pigs since they were already very comfortable in the water. Soon many of the guards were rolling like pros," explained Christensen.
Meanwhile, Christensen started looking for more kayaks. He put the word out to the river running community and soon kayaks were rolling in, donated by people from California, Idaho, Colorado, and Utah.
He also wrote to every kayak manufacturer and distributor he could find an address for. Carbon County Recreation is a partner in a high-risk youth program called The Lighthouse Life & Learning Center.
"This is a program which consists of kids that haven't done well in the regular school program," explained Christensen.
The center has been open for 10 years, offering a variety of programs ranging from education to recreation.
"As unfortunate as it is, many of these kids use drugs and alcohol as a substitute for real life - as an adventure, if you will. The idea of an outdoor adventure program is to replace drugs and alcohol with a productive adventure. Activities include rock climbing, backpacking, mountain biking, rafting, and now kayaking," Christensen explained.
"The idea is to use adventure recreation to touch the kids in the program. Get them excited about doing something adventurous. As we all know, kids who are excited about anything do better in everything."
Christensen told the story of the Lighthouse in every letter he wrote. Landis Arnold, president of Wildwater USA was the only person to write back.
Wildwasser is the United States distributor for Prijon kayaks. Arnold said he came from a similar background. If it hadn't been for rock climbing and kayaking, he would never have made it.
He then asked how many kayaks were needed for the Carbon County program.
Christensen said the question threw him for a loop. He didn't know whether to ask for two or 20. He finally responded.
"Well, it will eventually take at least 12 to 14 in order to fit everyone who wants to take the workshops, but we would be thrilled with any number you are willing to give us. We could probably get started with six," Christensen replied.
The response was, come and get them.
So, now the agency had six new Prijon kayaks and the donation of used kayaks kept rolling in. Christensen tells the story of BJ Shannon, a woman in California who went the extra mile for the program.
After hearing of the program, she offered to donate her kayak. Then she started asking her friends and acquaintances.
"She kept e-mailing me telling me she had another kayak. This went on every couple of days until she had four kayaks in Placerville, Calif. I told her if she was going to buy a raffle ticket, I wanted to go in half," Christensen said.
One kayak was donated to the Carbon County program from Boise, Idaho; two came from the Denver area, and several from Salt Lake City.
Today Carbon Rec has 17 kayaks, although some of them aren't in river-worthy condition.
A new workshop begins every few weeks, and classes are also offered at the College of Eastern Utah. In addition to lessons, Carbon Rec also rents kayaks.