The Northeastern State University Second Century Camps for kids is promoting safe and healthy outdoor experiences on the water this summer through its kayaking camp.
Sixteen-year kayaker and NSU Marketing Coordinator Dana Boren-Boer, who leads the first-year paddling camp, hopes to increase the sport’s popularity in the area, while honoring a gift of Mother Nature: the Illinois River.
“The goal was to get kids interested in kayaking, and then just bring some respect to the river,” Boren-Boer said. “Hopefully, if we can catch them when they’re young, we can change that river mentality that’s been so prevalent on the Illinois River, and get them to respect the place where their water comes from and the environment.”
The NSU Kayaking Camp, for kids ages 10 and up, features four days of instruction on safety and rescue information related to water recreation, while helping participants develop paddling skills and the confidence to handle a kayak on flowing water.
After spending three days learning and practicing basic techniques in the river at Hanging Rock Camp, Boren-Boer will lead a six-mile float to give campers an opportunity to launch their new skills and interest on the Illinois River.
Boren-Boer’s 16 years of kayaking experience includes many hours in instructional and recreational river settings in Colorado. She said the local camp began with a viewing of teaching videos at the Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission, under the direction of OSRC Administrator Ed Fite.
“One’s a swift-water rescue video, and one’s a general awareness and river safety video,” she said. “Then we went over personal flotation devices and all the different kinds there are. I think the most favorite thing I love that Ed Fite says is in the 30 years he has recovered bodies from the river, he’s never recovered a body with a PFD on, making that important for the kids – especially since he’s recovered three bodies in the past month. So a lot of it is just general safety information. What happens when you fall out of the boat. What’s a strainer, and how do you avoid them.”
Learning about strainers – or debris that collects against boulders, in holes and against overhanging trees and along the turn of a flood-stage river – is one of the many essential details to which campers are exposed.
“They’ll do some paddle strokes, and they’ll have an obstacle they’ll have to paddle around,” said Boren-Boer. “We’ll flip them so they know what that feels like. We’ll tell them how to hold on to their paddle, and how they float down the river after they’ve flipped, and what’s the safest way to do that. [Also] how to maneuver the boat, and follow the main current of the river. Then Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, we’ll actually float with them.”
Fite gave NSU high praises for holding the kayaking camp and helping promote safety in recreational water settings.
“This is the first time NSU has had a class like this for children,” he said. “I look for it to grow.”
The most important aspect is safety, he added.
“A lot of folks will go to a river, a pond or a lake – even a pool, for that matter – but if you don’t give them basics on safety, at some point there’s going to be an accident,” he said. “We want people to be prepared. This is a good group of kids. There are 16 of them, and they’re having a blast. My hat’s off to NSU for its willingness to dedicate staff time and resources to have something like this. The kids wish they could do this every day. That’s what they told me this morning.”
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