Recently, I heard about a West Coast paddler, no names please, who stars in porn flicks so he can afford to paddle. It made me think.

What is the ultimate sacrifice in paddling?

Is it giving up a real job to paddle? Dying while pushing your limits? Or, maybe you are divorcing your wife because she doesn’t get it. What kind of sacrifices do you make to get on the river?

We all make choices in life and paddling is no different. The weekend warrior chooses to work five days for two days of paddling. It often means long hours in the car to hit the river—it usually means more driving than paddling. And, with recent gas price hikes, there is a considerable financial sacrifice as well. To assume the weekend warrior is not committed to the cause of paddling is bullshit! They make the ultimate sacrifice; they paddle the least and work the most for it.

pushing rubber means hanging with punters all day reciting the same cheeseball lines and answering the same stupid questions

Raft guides also make huge sacrifices. Theirs is a cruel and unusual punishment: floating within the very waters that have drawn them to the river, but essentially unable to experience the real thrill. Sure they get wet, but it’s not the ride they are looking for. And, pushing rubber means hanging with punters all day reciting the same cheeseball lines and answering the same stupid questions. Salt in the wound.

The few hours of paddling a guide manages to squeeze in after a day already spent on the river is poor compensation for the tithe they pay all summer long. Our hearts go out to you. Row, row, row your raft, gently down the stream, merrily, merrily, merrily your job is but a tease.

The people in the last group give everything they have to paddle. They are, for lack of a better term, professional paddlers.

Paddling is their job. Quite often, and rightly so, these are our best paddlers. Their quest is to make paddling a feasible career. A frightening thought: at least at this point. Like supermodels, pro-boaters are only as good as their last ride; once that goes, the options run out. A few have made it. But the rest, to be amongst the best in the world and have no bling bling, are a true testament to both the passion of their sacrifice and the reality of it.

The real cost of getting into kayaking can be much, much more than the cost of a new boat and gear

Let’s also not forget, pro paddlers must paddle year-round. While paddling is great, to paddle every day, often on the same river, over and over, can be a hard sell to some. So, what happens when their quest ends? No job. No recognized education, and few prospects. Only achy bones and outdated boats will remind them they have given everything they had to do what they love. Big props to those of you who will soon be collecting welfare and washing our windows on street corners.

Please don’t leave streaks. But hopefully, all of us will realize the sacrificing we do, no matter how dramatic, is really a testament to the sport we pursue. The real cost of getting into kayaking can be much, much more than the cost of a new boat and gear. It can cost you your soul. Spend it wisely.

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