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I recently had the pleasure of attending a bachelor party with nine very good buddies. We spent the weekend at Lake James, NC, and experienced a sweet confluence of mountain lifestyle and lake lifestyle. I have been stoked about this trip for a while now, but it exceeded all expectations.
Lake James is a spectacular place, and our enjoyment of it was only augmented by the Surftech Flowmaster board that we demo’d from Diamond Brand Outdoors. Literally every chance I got, I was on this board goofing around in the lake.
Me learning the ropes in the SUP world (while rocking one of our new paddleboard shirts!)
The Flowmaster is a cool design because it has the pointed bow and other race inspired features, while also allowing plenty of volume and stability for beginners. We had a wide range of SUP skill levels and athletic abilities on the trip, and everyone was stoked on it.
One of my favorite parts of using the paddleboard was the almost hypnotizing cadence and motions. 10 paddle strokes on each side, switch, 10 paddle strokes, switch. You have the opportunity to recede deep inside your thoughts and watch the water sheet off the bow, while also checking in with every single muscle in your body. They are all engaged as the power goes from your hands through your body, and eventually to the water. Awesome experience.
Get out on the water and try paddleboarding if you haven’t! It truly is an amazing next step…
I cannot believe that this stage of my life is over, but I feel far enough removed from my university days to look back and offer some insight into having the best possible experience as a kayaker (or any other avid outdoors athlete). Some of these were things that I learned the hard way, and I figured I might be able to help out some of the youngsters in the sport who are going to college in the next year or two.
Here are my top 10 tips for young kayakers seeking post-secondary education:
As strange as it is, that little piece of paper that holds your diploma is incredibly important and necessary to secure the opportunities that you want in this world. People have made it without that piece of paper, but you are severely handicapping yourself if you don’t have it. Aside from the practical aspect of it, university is incredibly fun, and you will meet lifelong friends.
9) Put energy into financial aid possibilities.
There are a whole lot of scholarship, grant, and student loan options out there. It’s worth your time to research what is available to you. The better your grades in high school, the easier this will be.
8 Choose wisely (try not to transfer).
Go to a school where you can see yourself hanging out for four years. If you want to kayak 4x a week, there are tons of great schools that can offer you this. Go to a school that is close to rivers, and work hard in the classroom and on the water. School is what you make of it, and there is no more beautiful thing in this world than life balance, and the ability to chase your dreams in all aspects of life. You do not need an Ivy League school to get an exceptional education.
**Other good motivation to get it right the first time – transferring is a pain in the butt, and you will lose tons of credits.
7) Go in-state if possible.
This one will make your parents very happy. The difference between in-state and out-of-state tuitions is massive, and your education could cost 5x as much if you go out-of-state. If you must do this, begin the steps to establish residency immediately. Get a driver’s license in that state, put utilities in your name etc. You are going to need to prove that you have a desire to live and work in that state indefinitely to be granted in-state after the fact.
6) Form an organized plan for completion from day one.
This is very important, because classes are not always offered every semester and they need to be taken in order. An advisor in your department will be able to help out tremendously in this regard. Keep this top-of-mind each semester as you register for classes, and check in with that advisor frequently.
5) Chase happiness, not money.
When choosing your major, give it some serious thought and ask questions. There is no one correct path for all of us, and your direction should be chosen based on what it is that you want out of a career. An added bonus is that in many cases, your kayaking experience can be very relevant to your coursework. The most important thing is not to be blinded by the money, and to choose something that is fulfilling and sustainable for you.
Don’t simply follow the career that takes the lowest number of school years and sets you up with the highest out-of-school salary. Often those jobs don’t have the same growth potential in the long term.
4) When in doubt… consult your professor
Many times, students will get behind in a class and feel helpless. I’ve got news for you: if you stay quiet and let the class steamroll you, you will fail. However, if you consult your professor and put forth an honest effort to understand the material, that professor will give you a bump when you need it. I’ve seen it happen many times. Friends or girlfriends will think that they can’t possibly pass a class based on the calculations of grades throughout the semester. The ones who don’t talk to their professors fail, and the ones who work their butts off trying to understand it are given a little boost by the professor in good will, and pass by the skin of their teeth.
3) Work hard AND smart.
Yes, you are a kayaker, and you want to go kayaking. But good money is being paid for you to get an education, and that’s what you need to do. It is possible to have it all, but it requires considerable time management and the ability to say “no” to paddling occasionally. School, kayaking, relationships, partying… something has got to give sometimes, and it is your decision as to what takes the lower priority. But your college days are some of the most important in determining the direction and quality of your life, so why not do the best that you can in those few years to maximize a LIFETIME of kayaking and playing in the outdoors? If you work smart, you don’t have to work as hard, and you will be able to do the things that you love around your commitments.
2) Get a good Internship.
I can’t stress enough how important this is. Internships are by far your easiest way in the door at a given business. There is much less commitment on the company’s part than hiring a full-time, benefitted worker, so this is your opportunity to get into your dream business. Once you prove your value there, it will be an obvious choice for them to slide you into a full-time position. Seriously… give this your highest attention and priority in the latter years of your college career!
It is and always has been about who you know. That is the way that the world operates, love it or hate it. Your single greatest opportunity in university is to meet people. Don’t just be the antisocial kayaker who’s gone every weekend. Go to school functions of all kinds, talk with your professors, get involved in intramural sports that you love on campus, brush shoulders with other students and the athletic staff, etc… opportunities will present themselves that you never dreamed of.
Network, network, network. Your network is your largest asset.
I hope that this has proven useful to some of you young bucks out there who are in the process of making these difficult decisions.
One other note: If you think working for yourself is more your cup of tea… I understand completely! Check out entrepreneurship and business administration resources at your school. This is becoming a larger and larger portion of Management Departments’ portfolios these days. If you have any questions at all about any of this, feel free to drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Best of luck, and see you on the river!