Paddle club provides easy access to kayaking skills and gear

Photo of a large pile of kayaks
Alexandra Flory / The Mossy Log

Whitewater kayaking is an outdoor adventurer’s dream. It involves time spent with friends, searching for special river locations and, of course, enjoying the beauty nature has to offer. However, despite all the joy that whitewater kayaking brings, the sport also has many barriers. 

For instance, one must have all the necessary gear, which can cost upwards of $1,000, basic knowledge about which river spots are the best and know how to safely operate a kayak in the middle of a rushing river. Luckily, Lewis & Clark’s Paddle Club aims to remove all these barriers and open up the sport to anyone interested, regardless of prior experience or knowledge. 

Paddle Club was founded by former LC student Sam Drevo ’99, who now runs eNRG Kayaking, a Portland-based water sports company. Drevo has connections in the kayaking community all over the world, and even emerged as the Extreme Kayaking Champion at the Gorge Games, an extreme sports competition that occurred in the Columbia River Gorge during the late 1990s and early 2000s. 

After Drevo’s involvement in the club stopped, attendance dwindled. Then, in 2021, alumni Soren Gotschall ’22 and Rachel Buys ’25 worked together to get the club up and running again. 

Buys’ dedication to the sport comes from a long history in kayaking, which includes having attended World Class Kayak Academy (WCKA), a high school that pairs the typical high school education with the not so typical education in kayaking. The school travels to a new country every three months and teaches its members how to become professional whitewater kayakers. After dedicating her life to the sport in WCKA, Buys learned the ins and outs of whitewater kayaking, including how to train others.

Buys reflected that she did not know about Paddle Club when coming to LC but was drawn to the school partially because of its closeness to world class kayaking opportunities. 

“I honestly partially came to Lewis & Clark because of how close in proximity we are to some of the best whitewater in the world. A ton of rivers essentially empty out into the Columbia River Gorge,” Buys said. 

It was this excitement for Portland’s perfect location that inspired Buys to get involved in Paddle Club. 

“I came here and I said, ‘People have to know that there’s such incredible whitewater here,’ but no, there were very few folks,” Buys said. 

After teaching all the basic skills to Gotschall, a former raft guide for College Outdoors, Buys’ love for whitewater kayaking spread to the wider LC community. In fact, Buys estimates that Paddle Club is among the top three attended clubs at LC, with an email list of over 170 people and an attendance poll in 2022 that recorded over 100 different attendants throughout the year. Part of the reason for such high rates of attendance comes from the club’s commitment to accessibility. 

“One of my biggest goals for the club is that whitewater kayaking is kind of super gate-kept by the need for a mentor. You have to have somebody to show you where to go and how to do it,” Buys said. “My goal is really to help just make it as accessible as possible.” 

Part of opening up this accessibility is teaching the basic skills and safety procedures to club members. Paddle Club offers “skills days,” where participants learn how to right themselves up after flipping upside down, which is a skill necessary to safely operate a kayak. They also teach how to safely rescue someone who is upside down. 

Another obstacle is the access to gear. Paddle Club has a plethora of kayaks that the club has accumulated throughout the years, some of which are adjustable for different body types. 

The club is not just dedicated to safety and practicality though, it also hosts fun events and games such as kayak polo, last person standing and the annual Paddle Club Olympics. The Paddle Club Olympics is an event that takes place every Spring and includes multiple teams practicing safety and pool games for the chance to win special prizes. But what is special about the Olympics is that every team goes home with a prize just for participating! 

Paddle Club wasn’t in operation for the first party of the semester due to problems in pool time scheduling, but will start up again in early March and will continue to meet every Wednesday from 9-11 p.m in Zehntbauer swimming pavilion. All the necessary gear will be provided and all one needs to bring is something they are comfortable wearing in the pool and a readiness to learn the exciting sport. 

“Anyone with any experience can come! We are willing to even teach people how to swim first,” Buys said. “Check it out. It’s fun, no experience necessary!”  

Subscribe to the Mossy Log Newsletter

Stay up to date with the goings-on at Lewis & Clark! Get the top stories or your favorite section delivered to your inbox whenever we release a new issue. 

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

AlphaOmega Captcha Classica  –  Enter Security Code