Adventures From a Professional Whitewater Kayaker
This is a guest blog post by professional Whitewater Kayaker Ben Marr.
I was basically born in a canoe – I enjoyed my first canoe expedition at the age of 2. Each summer, Algonquin Park was the lake-filled backdrop for our family’s summer vacations, spending 1-2 weeks exploring lakes and portages and wilderness.
Whitewater rapids came into the mix and our trips became downriver adventures on the Madawaska River, a major tributary to the Ottawa River. It was on the Mad that I tried kayaking for the first time. My parents bought a kayak, a Perception Dancer. Both my dad and I could fit in it, it was massive – long before companies designed boats for kids to use.
One fall weekend when I was 12, my dad and I put in on the Ottawa River, me in the kayak, him in his solo open canoe. It was the biggest whitewater either of us had seen and a memorable day.
Eventually, when I was 14 I was left on “The Island”, a bit of a lost boys lord of the flies scenario where young kids where kayaking every day and enjoying their first experiences outside parental supervision.
I would later work for a rafting company, spending summers on the river cleaning outhouses, bathrooms, and pavilions, selling firewood and even being a security guard. This allowed me to paddle a lot. I spent every possible minute on the water. I made friendships that are strong to this day. It is with these friends that I took all of my first trips. A road trip to North Carolina to try out steep creeks, a trip to Uganda to surf big waves during Ontario’s cold winter, first descent expeditions to Asia and so on.
The skills I learned and friendships that grew from the Ottawa River Valley are the foundation of my whitewater kayaking passion and career. This passion for whitewater has taken me all over the world and all over North America, it is a joy to experience new terrain and new rivers. No matter where I go, I may not understand the language while I experience a new culture, but I can understand the rivers.
I’m now 32 years old and this is the 5th year I’ve spent as a full-time kayaker. I’ve had some memorable experiences over the years. I’ve hiked 4 days through Quebec to cross into Labrador and run a first descent of the most beautiful river I have ever seen: The Nachvak River which flows into the Torngat Mountains, and Atlantic ocean. It was the most amazing trip I’ve participated in. Upon finishing our objective, we turned around and hiked 3 days back into Quebec to paddle the Korok River back to Ungava Bay.
However, all the travel makes me love home more and more. I love the whitewater in Canada, and I love the comforts of home. I love being mobile in my own Tacoma because I know I can depend on it to get me safely back after each trip.
Do you have a moment in time, an experience or someone that helped you discover your passion and sense of adventure? Because I definitely did!