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Sebastian Scholl

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Once Upon a Time When I Kayaked the World

Last night I was up late studying for an exam while watching old SNL skits on YouTube.  Being a Chris Farley fan, soon I was watching his classic skit, “Live in a Van Down by the River!”  Immediately wondering if one day I’ll be living in a van down by the river, I soon remembered, “wait, I already have”.  Never was I a drug addict trying to buy a rock under the bridge, or from a family to poor to afford anything more than a rusty VW mini bus near a stream to bathe in.  Rivers were what I woke up thinking about, spent my days exploring, and dreamed of at night.

West Virginia

Kayaking was everything I lived for during my high school years.  My only goals in life were focused at becoming a better boater.  Whether it be to learn a new trick, concur a rapid, or explore a river, I was obsessed.  As selfish as this sounds – and it is – school, family, friends, and any responsibility I had at the time came second.  On a weekly basis rocks would grate my knuckles completely from my fists, my shoulder sockets were looser than Pamela after countless dislocations, and the only thing I wanted was more.


There has never been a time in my life, not even during sex, that I have felt as in the moment as when kayaking.  Adrenaline would thunder through my veins when approaching the horizon line of a rapid or waterfall – a cocktail of excitement and utter terror shaken throughout my body.  Alert and dynamic, never knowing whether the water was going to push my one way or another.  Now, almost four years later, my memories evoke a strong nostalgia for the adventure lifestyle I used to live.


I know most people don’t consider the outdoor life style the real world.  But I disagree, because I really lived it.  All my possessions were utility based – a regular customer at thrift shops and Patagonia.  My guitar, camera and kayak/gear were the only luxuries I thought the world to have.  Beds were rare to come by, only if I were really lucky.  My “bedroom” was a small Marmot tent, and it moved with me from coast to coast, continent to continent.  I was living a simple life, surrounded with passionate and loving people, and I was really, really happy.


In 2008 I jumped in a van with 12 other guys and 4 teachers in Bozeman, Montana and began an epic journey.  Our school was called World Class Kayak Academy, our lives were unreal.  We were nomads, wondering the world exploring the best whitewater.  From Montana we drove up and across Canada to the East Coast then down to North Carolina.  From Texas we zig-zagged our way to the southern beach towns of Mexico, and X’d our trails back north.


Taking a long flight to the other side of the world, our pack made its way to the three parallel rivers of the Yunnan Province of China, where I kayaked the Great Bend of the Yangtze River – the third longest river in the world that can be seen from space.  After hiking, kayaking, bartering, eating, and all the other shenanigans we often got ourselves into, a flight back to the states landed us in southern California, where we ventured north through Oregon and Washington – landing once again in Bozeman.


Coming to school in the north east is something I’ll never regret, but doing so severed my relationship with the river.  I remember returning to Colorado and attempting to boat after my first year of college, I was crushed.  The amount I had digressed from my last time in the boat gave me such a set back I have yet to recover.  Maybe one day I’ll sack back up, remember whats between my legs and go for the gold once again with a paddle in my hand.  But for now, kayaking will remain the fondest memory of a life I used to live.

If I wasn’t in the river, I was tightrope walking over it


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