Fifteen years ago, in the same week that my middle son, Johah, was born, a good friend of mine drove to Colorado with a combined wad of our hard-earned cash and bought us both complete whitewater kayaking setups. We loved running rivers and we had both guided professionally, but we knew precious little about how to kayak.
That friend was Ryan Ollivier, AKA, Tuna. How he got that nickname is another story entirely.
We got all of one easy run in that fall before the cold weather came. But we spent all winter in a pool at the University of Utah, learning and practicing our eskimo rolls till we both had them down cold and locked into muscle memory.
Even now, you could tip me over in a kayak and my body will automatically go through my set-up routine: tuck up against the deck, find the surface with my paddle, sweep it in a big arc across the surface while pulling myself upright with a quick snap of the hips. Just like riding a bike. In a swimming pool anyway.
Once we had our own eskimo rolls down, lots of friends and brothers and cousins were recruited into the fold and what followed was a lot of great kayaking trips on rivers all over the West.
Tuna spent one summer guiding on the Salmon River in Idaho, then he followed that up by guiding on the two most challenging sections of the Colorado River this side of the Grand Canyon–Westwater and Cataract.
He’s a professional businessman now and has ditched the nickname, but he still considers this his favorite office.
It just seems appropriate to mark this 15th anniversary of learning to kayak with a simple thanks to a friend who has gotten me out to see and experience a lot of things I might never have done on my own.
Thanks Tuna. Sorry we missed the Westwater trip this year.