A Love Affair with Kayaking Started with a Scary Ride

I keep my Advanced Elements Inflatable Kayak in my trunk. Friends laugh and tease me, but whenever I find a chance to get on the water, it’s there waiting for me. No need to lug it out of storage, attach it to the top of my Camry, and drive down the highway looking like a Wienermobile. Set up is simple, too–it takes about five minutes to unload and inflate. I’d have to say I’m in the midst of a love affair with kayaking, in spite of it starting with a scary ride down the Payette River.


Floating in calmer water at Hillsdale Lake in Kansas.


My love affair with kayaking started in an unusual way; yet, ironically also in an inflatable boat.

My mom and sisters and I were visiting Idaho. On our way to McCall, we met up with family to float part of the Payette River. It would be my first time floating class III and IV rapids. The others were in a raft, but my cousin Keith’s son asked me if I’d like to ride with him in a blow-up canoe. He was experienced, even though I was not, so I said, “Sure!”

I was scared at first but after handling a few rough waves, I started to relax. Then we came to a drop-off. My cousin did the right thing; he pulled over to the bank and he got out to take a look.

“Dude! It’s a huge drop off! I think we should go over it!” he said.

“Dude,” I said, and chuckled, “Ok!”

I think we would have been safe normally, but for some reason whoever blew up the canoe had forgotten to blow up the bottom. So when we went over the edge the canoe folded in half and we capsized. Having a motherly instinct (keep in mind I’m 5’2″ and was 38 at the time–he was over 6′ and 19 years old–he didn’t need saving), as we capsized and I found my way to the surface, my first thought was to grab my cousin and pull him above water. As soon as I did I let go and we both were taken by the current. I traveled under water, bouncing on rocks, able to see the sunlight, but unable to come to the surface. Finally, the current slowed and we came above water, gasping and bruised.

My mom told me later that as she watched from a bridge above, she kept repeating, That’s not Jill. That’s not Jill” But it was. And I lived.

Even though it was a potentially dangerous moment, this trip made me fall in love with kayaking. When I returned home I researched and bought my own inflatable kayak. Now I’m ready at a moment’s notice.

But I always double check that it’s completely inflated first.

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