OC1 Essay Contest Entry - Dylan Geiger

The following submission was made as an entry to win a OC1 from an amazingly generous donor, who wanted to see the canoe truly enjoyed, rather than turn a profit. Entrants were asked to submit an essay answering the following:

  • Part 1: “Describe how paddling has changed your life.”
  • Part 2: “How do you plan to use this canoe, and perhaps someday pass it along?”

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Dylan Geiger, Florida

It all started with just that one day. My family and I were on vacation at the beach when out of nowhere my dad shows up with this large surfboard looking thing on the car and what seemed to be an unusually large canoe paddle to go with it. I was a bit skeptical because at the time I was still trying to learn how to surf but I tried it anyway. From that point on, I was constantly out on the water and that was largely, possibly solely, due to paddling.  At that time, being on the water itself wasn’t a big deal or attraction to me.  Paddling slowly changed that.

However, once we moved down to Florida in 2013, this hobby quickly developed into a passion. I began to understand that paddling was more than just a paddle and a craft and began to connect it to the water, the wildlife, the community, and more. I started to explore paddling more and about four years ago I was introduced to the world of Outrigger Canoe. My OC experience started with my Dad and I learning to paddle OC-2 and then racing in the Chattajack race together that year.  I picked up OC-1 shortly after that and recently OC-6 as well.  Over the past four years, I have been able to create a healthy and steady balance of SUP, OC, and surfing.

Paddling has deeply influenced my relationships in my life. One way that it has done so is through my relationship with the water. Growing up, I was never really connected with the water. However, it wasn’t until I picked up paddling that I really began to develop a passion and an understanding for the water. When we moved to Florida, I had access to the ocean, rivers, canals, lakes, springs, lagoons, pretty much every kind of body of water you could imagine. I began to appreciate it for what it was instead of taking it for granted. It was no longer the water allowing me to paddle, but paddling allowing me to be on the water instead. During the school year, I am always very busy with schoolwork, as well as other aspects of my life. Paddle training is normally my only way to get out on the water, which makes me appreciate it all the more.

Paddling has also influenced my relationship with my family. As a result of our busy schedules, we don’t always get to spend as much time together as we would like. However, paddling is a common bond and interest that everyone in my family shares.  It has become the easiest and most natural way for us to spend quality time with each other, largely because of the flexibility and variety it provides. While my dad and I train, my sister and my mom can take the dogs out and go for a leisure paddle. After, we can watch the sunset and eat dinner on the water. Paddling and being on the water can relieve us of our daily stresses and we can just be in the moment as a family and relax.  Paddling has definitely become a center point or common bond for our family.

As well as impacting my relationships with the water and my family, paddling has impacted my relationships, and how I interact, with other people as well. Through paddling, I have been introduced to a community of wonderful people. The paddling community is extremely supportive and I feel that I would be not even half the person I am today without their help. I have made countless friends with everyone I meet at races and more just by seeing new people on the water or meeting new paddlers through old friends. Also, paddling has given me better social interaction skills as an indirect result. Because I am always meeting and greeting people at events, I am constantly talking and socializing (mostly with adults). In my opinion this has made me a better person and better communicator because I am having fun, yet mature, conversations with people that are older than me. I am learning and becoming more comfortable instead of being the shy and awkward kid I used to be.

Lastly with the relationships, and how they are influenced by paddling, is my relationship with myself. Prior to paddling, I was trying a multitude of sports, as all kids should, to try and discover one I really enjoyed. I picked up lacrosse, and thoroughly enjoyed playing it. I continued to play it after I picked up paddling, so I ended up balancing paddle training and lacrosse practice at the same time (which were both afternoon ordeals). I ultimately ended up only focusing on paddling as a sport, despite pressure and negative connotations from friends and peers. Paddling has provided me an outlet to grow not only athletically and physically but spiritually, emotionally, and mentally as well.  In comparison, lacrosse and other sports I played provided some but not all of these opportunities for personal growth.  The “moral” of the story is that I went with what I enjoyed more over what others thought and, in the end, I am far happier than I would’ve ever been if I had stuck with lacrosse or a different sport. Today, I am content with who I am because of my decision to pursue my happiness and my passion and the means by which I’m achieving said happiness.

That was how paddling has impacted my life, so now we move on to what I would do with the canoe (that rhymes)! As I mentioned above in my “About Me” paragraph, I own a kid specific paddle business that focuses on getting kids out on the water paddling and being active. As of right now, I use stand up paddleboards to teach them and we do all sorts of things with them. After teaching them the proper techniques and safety precautions, we move on to fun stuff and how to actually enjoy paddling. I try to introduce it to them slowly, so the kids don’t become overwhelmed with all this new information.  I stress “fun” because making things about racing and being competitive can sometimes turn off those kids who are unsure, apprehensive, or not interested in competitive sports. Now where the OC-1 comes into play is that I would love to introduce an outrigger canoe into my work with kids and begin using that for lessons and activities as well. My ultimate goal is to turn kids on to being active and being on the water.  Showing the variety of ways to do this with various craft, including an OC, is important and helpful in showing that “time on the water” heals and makes us better people.  It is also important to give kids options because it allows them to think for themselves and to make their own decisions on personal preferences. They can then decide which paddle craft they like more and pursue that craft. Or they can pursue multiple craft like me. In my opinion, an OC-1 would be a perfect option to provide kids with because some may prefer to sit down while on the water.  They may also connect with the historical and cultural significance that outrigger canoes present.

Another way that I would utilize the Huki is by lending it out to fellow paddlers in our local community, or at races when needed. My Dad and I organize a small “race” league every Wednesday night at a local park and there are occasionally people that ask us if we have equipment to lend. With the extra OC-1, we can provide new paddlers with the opportunity to try outrigger canoe and they can be introduced to new ways to enjoy the water. We can also lend the Huki to racers because my Dad and I go to races all over Florida where there are mishaps or whatnot and someone winds up without a craft. I feel that it is best to give back to the community that gives to you, which is why I would be more than willing to allow others to borrow the boat for races when they have no other options.

I would like to thank you for providing me this opportunity to not only potentially continue to share your OC with the paddling community but also for the opportunity to share my personal paddling story with you through this essay. It provided a much-needed reflection on how my life has progressed and how paddling really has indeed changed my life for the better. Cheers!


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