Thank You Colorado Kayak Supply!
From John Amtmann

When my wife and I started having children I asked myself, what are the most valuable gifts I can share with my children? Several things came to mind. One was to share with them the outdoor activities that have enriched my life. Mainstream sports are great and if that’s where they want to concentrate their efforts - fine, but I get as much or more enjoyment out of outdoor activities, and I wanted them to have the option.

The average American, even the former mainstream sport athlete, is sedentary or inadequately active. Most Americans have just had more opportunity to participate in mainstream sports than in alternative sports such as kayaking, so running rivers is something most Americans really don’t know much about. It seems to me that these alternative activities are enjoyed for a lifetime by the participants unlike most mainstream sports, and it’s fellow river people who recognize the value in teaching children how to kayak. It wasn’t until I purchased my first Jackson Kayaks from Colorado Kayak Supply though that I saw that children aren’t limited to paddling the smallest, yet still oversized, adult kayaks in lakes, which is how I started my kids in their first season seven years ago. For their next season I had spent my entire savings on two Jackson Fun 1 boats. I couldn’t believe it when I saw these boats, they were perfectly sized for the kids.

The staff support I received from CKS was exactly what I needed when I first started to balance out the non-river savvy folks telling me how crazy I was.

My father in law would say, “That John shouldn’t be taking those kids to the river, there’s undertows on the Big Hole that’ll reach up and grab you from out of nowhere and hold you down forever!” There’s a remote possibility “That John” is a term of endearment. An older neighbor this past June walked by the house as I was loading up our river vehicle, The Beast, and was horrified that the tiny boats I was loading up belonged “those dear lovely Amtmann girls.”

“Do you realize how high the water is right now?” She asked

“Yes, yes Mrs. Armstrong, I know and believe me we will be very careful, I promise,” was my response. I guess you have to look at it from their perspective – non-river folks don’t really know any better.

But the wise folks at the CKS would say, “Oh yeah, that’s great, we’ve got an excellent kids program down here (in Colorado) and the kids make tremendous progress.” Their staff is experienced, professional and knowledgeable. Their inventory is never lacking and shopping with them is almost like they’re in my back yard – it’s convenient and I am so grateful to their business!

I consulted with the CKS staff and took a conservative approach to teaching the girls to kayak. I was told, and believed, that one bad experience could turn a kid off. So, slowly we progressed, keeping each outing fun, with some kayaking thrown in. The fact that I teach at a college, and my office is located in the HPER complex – where the pool is – made a big difference.

Wherever we were at we practiced rolls and basic strokes along with the basic river navigation skills: eddy turns, peel outs, and ferries. We also practiced our rescue scenarios so that their first swims didn’t surprise them and each kid knew what to do. Still today we practice these things – and it’s worked out well. We have had many family outings and have met many new friends and I appreciate Colorado Kayak Supply’s help and support along the way.

The Jackson Fun series is the perfect place to start with children. The sizing is perfect – and will allow your child to develop the fundamentals. My daughters started paddling at about 35 - 45 pounds (four to six years old) and the Fun 1 fit them perfectly. The first season they enjoyed just being able to paddle around the lake and slow moving river water. During off months (November and March) we would hit the pool a few times and work rolls at the local YMCA or the college. Eventually our oldest daughter Aidan grew out of the Fun 1 at about 75 pounds and we purchased a Fun 1.5 for her, which worked out good because Devin, the youngest, was able to use Aidan’s Fun 1…a hand me down. For Aidan, the Fun 1.5 performed exactly as the Fun 1 did; she actually found it easier to roll than the Fun 1.

As the girls progressed the two older ones (currently 10 and 12) were able to take on bigger water. We’ve gone to the Blackfoot River Challenge the last two years in a row and had a wonderful time thanks to the folks in Missoula who put the event on. In larger volume water such as the Clark Fork’s Alberton Gorge, I’ve observed two different approaches emerge with the boating of the two older girls.

Hannah, the 10 year old, though only 62 pounds likes to stay in her Jackson Fun 1. We have a Hero/Sidekick that I thought she would like better in bigger water.

“No Dad, I like staying in my Fun 1, it’s not as stable as the Sidekick and I get munched up a bit, but I can maneuver it a little better, it surfs better, and I know I can roll it up in anything,” She says.

On the other hand, 12 year old Aidan likes the Sidekick in bigger water. “The Fun 1.5 is a better surfer, but the Sidekick is more stable and it’s easier for me to roll,” said Aidan.

Go figure.

Nonetheless, thank you to Colorado Kayak Supply for everything!!

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