My First Kayaking Trip

by Jasmine Hunt 

Editor’s Note: The following story was written by a student in our Eco Youth Reporters program, conducted in conjunction with award-winning journalist Kari Lydersen and Michigan State University’s Knight Center for Environmental Journalism. The Eco Youth Reporters program is generously funded by theMcCormick Foundation:

On a sunny day in early August, my journalism class and I went on a kayaking trip in the Chicago River. I haven’t been swimming all summer and I am not an experienced swimmer, to say the least, so it was all fun and games until I actually sat in the kayak and the water started to rock my boat.

Noah Stein with Chicago River Canoe and Kayak was our instructor and showed us the correct paddling form and motion. My colleagues and I signed a release form that acknowledged all the dangers, saying the facility would not be held responsible if we acquired any injuries.

Everyone put on their life jackets and had a paddling tutorial. Each person helped one another with taking the kayaks down to the dock to put them out on the water. There were the single-person kayaks and two-person ones. I was in a kayak by myself. Noah held on the side of it as I prepared to enter. The water was hitting the side and I began to rock. You have to get used to the motion.

I asked Noah if they still go on the water if it’s raining or bad weather. He said they do, unless there’s lightning.

We were to paddle across the river to the right and then start downstream. I was concerned that I might fall out or not be heard if trouble arrived, such as a fast boat, or that I would get lost. Or even worse, I worried I would fall in the water. I would not want to fall in any water but especially not the Chicago River, where I would come in contact with algae, bacteria, garbage and other things that gave it a green, slimy look.

I panicked and wanted to get out of the kayak.

So Noah helped me exit the boat. I watched as the group left in their kayaks and I chatted with Antonio Reed, who skipped the ride because he was sick.

It was a wild ride!

Next summer, since I’ve had some experience with getting into the kayak now, I’ll probably try it again. Now that I know what to expect with the water, I think it will turn out to be a good experience.

I also hope by then it will be cleaner. I don’t want to insult the river but more people could enjoy it if it was cleaner and you didn’t have to worry so much about falling in. Even when the group came back, I could see they’d gotten wet and had water in their boats. It looked like they had fun but I was still debating the safety of the water. People should get together to petition to clean up the river.

Kayaking can be a great activity for a Chicago summer and it’s also a way more people can get involved with the river and help to clean it up. It may be cold outside now but once it’s summer season again, go grab your paddle!

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