levi alone in a raftI grew up swimming and fishing the rivers of Southern Colorado and have always been drawn to flowing fresh water. I was 15 the first time I sat in a white water kayak and it felt pretty natural paddling it around in a lake. Evan after getting a little overzealous and flipping out in the middle of the lake and having to pull my skirt I was hooked. Unfortunately it took another four years and an intro to kayak class my freshman year of college to really stoke my passion for the sport. I bought my first kayak after that class and hit the local play park working on my skills. Little did I realize this class and first kayak purchase would lead to some amazing adventures and great friendships.

After a 4 year hiatus in Tucson where my paddling opportunities were limited, but the climbing was limitless I ended up in southeast Ohio. You wouldn’t think this would be a place to rediscovery one’s passion for white water paddling. Fortunately, there was a strong tradition for white water kayaking and canoeing at the grad program I was in and several very motivated paddlers willing to drive in order to indulge in their passion. This is the point at which white water paddling became an essential part of who and what makes me. After tons of road trips to the Youghiogheny River in central PA and to the New River Gorge and Gauley River in WV, I landed a Job in Durham, NC where I met a new group of amazing river people and explored some of the more tame rivers the region had to offer.

My life trajectory quickly changed after a weekend kayaking in WV and 6 hour drive back to North Carolina spent discussing my river buddies upcoming 21 day Grand Canyon trip that was less than a month from launching. This trip of a life time had a spot available and after moving some stuff around on the calendar I was able to make the trip work which typically is planned out 2 years in advance. After spending 21 amazing days with awesome river people and living out of a boat and sleeping under the stars in the desert southwest I knew I had to move back out west as soon as possible. 6 months later I was towing a U-Haul behind my 4runner headed for Golden with a job lined up in Boulder.

I fortunately linked up with some great kayakers and even better friends who I have explored countless rivers in Colorado granting me access to places most never get to witness and explore. After putting in countless but unforgettable river miles in perfecting my skills it was time to go explore other rivers. The first kayaking specific vacation was up to the Pacific Northwest with 5 of my paddling companions. After figuring out all the logistics we explored some beautiful rivers, had a great time and new this was a great way to spend vacation time. This led to multiple pre - Colorado season trips to the Northwest and post season trips to the rivers of the Southeast. 

After my 2nd trip down the Grand Canyon with 7 close friends we decided it was time to break into the international scene and we planned a 10 day paddling trip in the Pucon region of Chile. After three flights and 30 hours of travel we were spending Thanksgiving south of the equator in spring like conditions. This experience was unbelievable and total eye opening. Not only were we getting to explore amazing rivers in beautiful mountains and gorges, but we were immersed in another culture attempting to speak the Chilean style of Spanish. Even with the current travel restrictions and regulations I am getting out on the water and planning out my next international river trip.

levi sleeping with a dog in his lap

Being out on rivers has taught me a lot about myself, given me a greater appreciation for nature and protecting it along with our rivers, and has taught me some great life lessons. We all have something that drives us and that we are passionate about and fortunately kayaking found me and has helped to shape my life. I will leave you with this quote and as the saying goes, we are all in between swims!

“The rivers flow not past, but through us, thrilling, tingling, vibrating every fiber and cell of the substance of our bodies, making them glide and sing.” – John Muir