When was the last time you crossed something BIG off your bucket list?
Rewind to last summer. In a serendipitous twist of events, I was presented with the opportunity to do just that.
Kansan turned Kayaker
I’d moved to East Tennessee three years before, and while kayaking was kind of on my radar, I really had no idea how to get into it. The outdoor lifestyle in Knoxville was more vibrant than back home in Kansas City, but as a girl who'd only played sports with teams and tryouts and tournaments, kayaking seemed mysterious and inaccessible with far too steep a learning curve.
Enter Chota Canoe Club. I was initially approached to do a website redesign for Chota and, through a series of events, was able to attend their annual Canoe & Kayak school. Who knew something like this even existed? Something that could soothe my apprehensions about getting the right gear, learning basic technique, and the ever-important skills of not drowning myself doing something stupid! I was amazed.
I knew nothing coming into the sport. I was scared of the unknown, didn’t know the lingo or many bodies of water in my new backyard. I certainly would not still be paddling if the members of Chota hadn’t been involved.
From the outset, the members (now some of my dearest comrades) did everything from setting up weekly roll practices to filling my summer full of training trips. But it was their moral support and their confidence in my potential that made me stick with it and eventually made it all stick. They introduced me to the treasures of this region, and once I felt confident to set off down those rolling gradients of water, I never looked back. It’s true what they say: you get to see things in a kayak that most people could never dream of experiencing.
Chota: Then and Now
Let me tell you a little bit about Chota. Chota Canoe Club was founded in 1969 in Knoxville, Tennessee. Beginning as an informal group of paddlers in 1969, they took the name Chota in 1972 when the Little Tennessee River was threatened by the construction of a controversial dam. Today, Chota welcomes all sorts of paddlers: touring canoeists, kayakers, and even those guys who say “SUP!”
Chota has also contributed over $14,500 to support local conservation organizations, and members have provided countless hours of service maintaining the beauty of East Tennessee. Even now, Chota is leading the charge in defending the Ocoee river, a second home to many of us and the location of the 1996 Olympics.
Join in the Adventure!
If you’ve ever considered giving kayaking or canoeing a go, then you owe it to yourself to give Chota Paddling School a try this summer. It’s unbelievably affordable at only $100, and runs from June 19th to the 21st (Find out more about our 2015 paddle school at [paddlechota.org](paddlechota.org) ).
For those who are well past the beginner stages of boating, there is a wide pool of paddlers to take trips with. From old school to new, from dirtbags to hippies to yuppies, Chota’s 100-200 members run the gamut. But all of its members are committed to promoting community paddle sport activities, safety awareness, and techniques while being environmentally responsible.
The fantastic thing about this community is that you can get as involved as you like and still keep up with your fellow river rats through the club website, monthly newsletter Eddy Out, as well as monthly meetings. Eddy Out is a collective of the most recent club trips, the stories you haven’t heard by the campfire, conservation initiatives, and photos of members doing what they love!
Kayaking, canoeing, paddle boarding, festivals, road trips, rolling, teaching, camping, storytelling, and the list goes on. I can effectively say that finding Chota not only opened up a wonderful new world of adventure for me, but that I truly know and appreciate my new home here in Tennessee and can now live like a local.