Gordon Stam is the first to admit the
kayaking organization he runs needs
some better, um … organization,
and more approachable ways for novices to
get involved. He’s planning on doing something
about it in August, setting up a trip to
the Green River that he hopes will get the
word out for the Utah Whitewater Club.
“We have a beginner’s series already,”
UWC president Stam says. “But it’s basically
a year-round commitment that starts
in February with some indoor pool work.
Then we get people out on the water. Maybe
a third of the people who start it actually
finish, and we don’t have a lot of places
where people can jump in the middle.
“We need to be more realistic on our
assessment; get people in with a trip that
comes on shorter notice, and with less
commitment, and something that offers a
more immediate introduction.”
Stam, along with members of the UWC,
point out that kayaking—and less stringent
water sports like canoeing, tubing and
rafting—is more accessible than most locals
think. For starters, they don’t even have to
own the equipment. Those that do—like Utah
medical student Ashley Meagher—point out
that recreation departments like the U. will
even hand it out for a nominal fee.
Stam has pinpointed Aug. 29 as the date
he’d like to do a down-and-back trek, noting
that the UWC doesn’t have anything going
on during that time and it comes at a safe
distance from the summer’s major holidays.
This is the perfect time to learn, says Stam.
The runoff isn’t at its peak, like during
spring, creating safer environments, and
flipping from the vessel isn’t as big a deal.
“And the water’s warm,” he says, alluding
specifically to the Green River. “Even
though the rapids may look intimidating
for the beginner, they’re really straight
forward and low-consequence.”
For experts, and those with a good idea of
where to go, there are already some terrific
online resources available for Utahns to plan
trips locally and elsewhere. Eddyflower.com
is basically Craigslist for rapids lovers, offering
everything from classified advertising
for equipment sales to chat boards and an
extensive up-to-date guide of rivers and
flows — plus descriptions of the areas.
Mountainbuzz.com, also popular among
the winter sports thrill-seekers, has some
Meagher is capable of talking newbies
on tours, but claims she’s hardly a diehard
by the standards of some of the registered
users on EddyFlower. But she has met total
strangers for trips to Idaho and the Moab
area, where an unusually wet spring plus
all of those winter storms have made for
some of the best current conditions in
years. She says newbies who might only
be able to chip in gas money and muscle
power, and have no other training or
knowledge of water sports, might still find
it worthwhile to seek out excursions.
“People looking for groups to go on those
sites tend to be pretty chill,” Meagher says.
Stam says there are more people with
kayak minds than realize it. He says rock
climbers tend naturally to be interested,
for sake of adventure. But, don’t discount
skiers who are “intrigued with mastering a
movement-and-balance sport. Skiing, you
have gravity, and in kayaking there’s a current.
Both are kind of relentless, but you
learn to use them to your advantage.” Of
course, aquaphobia is an interview killer.
UWC and its approximately 100 members
also meet every third Thursday, 7
p.m., at the REI on 3300 South. Interested
folks should also check out the website
UtahWhiteWaterClub.org for further notice
about the August trip.
Stam says there’s plenty more room
in the water. “We’re trying to build the
sport,” he says, “get some fresh blood. A lot
of people want to get into it, they just don’t
know how. Well, this is a way.”