Mary Spikowski, COP Kayaker
When I bought my first kayak in May 2000, I could not have imagined the profound impact paddling would have on my life. My goal was to enjoy kayaking around some of the lakes in Central Ohio. However, I had a vague memory that it was possible to roll a kayak (as in, flip it upside down and then upright again). That seemed like such a neat trick! I asked a local outfitter where I might find other kayakers to learn from. I was directed towards Columbus Outdoor Pursuits. Within the next month, I joined COP, learned how to roll, and bought my second kayak! Once I had a reliable roll, people in COP started inviting me on whitewater trips. I never would have guessed people living in Columbus, Ohio paddled whitewater out-of-state on a regular basis, or that it was something I would enjoy doing or even be reasonably competent at doing!
Looking back, almost 19 years later, whitewater paddling has become the guiding force of my life. When all other aspects of my life are frustrating, a weekend on the river can restore my sanity. I have kayaked up to class V in river difficulty, but an adrenaline rush isn’t critical for me to enjoy paddling. I do enjoy the adrenaline rush of whitewater kayaking, but not at the expense of having fun. Paddling at too high of a difficulty level increases the fear factor and diminishes the fun factor. Sometimes the most enjoyable part of the river trip is the beautiful scenery, and getting to experience a part of the country from a different viewpoint than the average tourist. Through kayaking I found a group of friends and companions with whom I feel comfortable spending weekends on and off the river. My most recent source of enjoyment in the sport is being able to share all of this with my daughter, who now has two kayaks of her own, enjoys camping, and is always excited about new experiences.