A professional kayaker can take many routes to success, from performing death-defying stunts to competing at tournaments. And because people are so fascinated with their oddball lives, they are able to ride their wave of fame even when they are off the water.
To those outside of the industry, a kayaker’s life seems packed with adventures but you will be surprised at the amount of time kayakers spend doing mundane things such as reading up on kayaking guides, all in preparation for that great leap.
On the waters
Kayakers spend much of their lives on water of course. The key to any sport is practice and many kayakers spend entire days learning new kayaking tricks such as maneuvering techniques and landing safely, in particular for freestyle kayakers.
Off the water
Kayakers spend a lot of time training off the waters as well, doing normal workouts like cardio and upper body training. They also have to keep to strict diets like any other athlete.
The kayaker has to keep abreast of the latest development in his industry, such as the latest models of kayaks and paddles released, the latest records broken, the profile of fellow competitors, as well as the terrain they are kayaking in.
Kayakers also need to go through the paper work applying for permits to kayak in certain locations although many professional kayakers tend to have a team to help them with administrative work.
A big part of a new professional kayaker’s life is competing. This is one of the only ways at the beginning of a career as a kayaker to earn some cash money and rise in prominence within the competition circuit. Kayakers have to travel across the countries and even overseas to participate in various competitions.
Competitions take up only a small fraction of a kayaker’s life. Kayakers also test their limits and raise their public profiles by planning their own kayak routes. Many embark on expedition kayaking and attempt to paddle in rivers no one has paddled before and try to break records as part of stunts that can garner significant media attention.
It is no wonder that kayakers tend to lead nomadic lives, especially since the places they venture to are quite isolated areas. Haley Mills, a professional kayaker who was ranked 5th in the world in freestyle kayaking says that her truck is where her home is. Haley and her team basically live on the road and spend significant times away from family. Her truck contains a single bed, her kayaks and other equipment, and also her closet in the backseat.
Kayakers traverse the world in search of the fastest and tallest rapids, all while tightly gripping on to their paddles.
Blogging, marketing, advertising
With such a vibrant and extraordinary life, many professional kayakers pick up writing and communication skills to monetize their experiences, either through writing blogs, publishing books or creating vlogs about their adventures. Tao Berman, perhaps the most well known professional kayaker on the planet, models in commercials and also does public speaking. He is sponsored by the likes of Red Bull, Timberland and Oakley.
There are not many successful kayakers out there for present kayakers to emulate. It is a path less trodden. Competitions are dispersed throughout the year and their locations change every year so they will never know where they will end up the next year.
Outside of competitions, public stunts are self-initiated acts that do not guarantee fixed incomes. Kayakers can only hope that the media attention brings them sponsors.
A greater concern will be the looming possibility of mishaps and injuries that may stall a kayaker’s plans or worse, cancel them indefinitely.
The number of trajectories a kayaker can take is countless and not surprisingly, the life of a kayaker is highly unpredictable.
Professional kayakers are definitely on the ride of their lives but they take huge risks everyday and never really get to stay with their families. However, the enriching and entirely refreshing lives they lead may be well worth it for most of them.