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Ryan Amundson, in the water, balances a kayak right before Carl Hansen practices the skill of “re-righting” the kayak after capsizing. LISA BRITTON photo
Kayaker holds sessions once a month at Baker City’s Sam-O Swim Center for anyone interested in the sport
Carl Hansen teeters on the nose of his kayak, balancing for a few seconds with the help of Ryan Amundson.
Then Hansen tips forward, his head disappearing underwater.
Only the kayak’s bottom shows.
Then the boat rolls, and Hansen pops to the surface with a grin.
Once a month, he brings kayaks to Sam-O Swim Center in Baker City to share his love of kayaking with anyone who wants to learn.
And through the camaraderie, he also shares his faith.
“That’s why I do it — it’s not just about the kayaking anymore,” he said.
His reason is deeply personal.
Hansen lost a friend to suicide, a friend whom he’d spent hours with kayaking rivers and lakes. Hansen wonders — if they had talked more about life, and life’s struggles, would things had turned out differently?
“It’s just an awesome time to talk about life and struggles,” he said.
Now he’s talking, but also teaching the techniques for kayaking — the basics, as well as skills for staying safe.
Scott Knox, his pastor at Blue Mountain Baptist Church, encouraged Hansen to start the monthly kayak gatherings. (Knox has even started kayaking.)
Most of the kayaks Hansen brings to the pool are “play boats,” which are shaped differently than lake and creek kayaks. Each type is designed for a specific type of water — from calm lakes to rushing whitewater.
“A lot of people don’t know there’s a difference (in kayaks),” he said.
During a recent session, Jake Eastland and Bryce Waldron paddled around the pool before attempting to roll.
The calmness of an indoor pool offers a controlled place to practice the basic skills and strokes.
“Even just how to use the boat,” Hansen said.
From the deck, it’s hard not to hold a breath when he suddenly tips a hip and disappears underwater.
One, two, three...
He reappears, shaking water from his head.
This is called an Eskimo roll.
In a kayak, your legs are “locked in” and it’s the hips that do all the work.
“My hips make everything move,” he said.
Hansen uses the pool for practice, and to introduce others to the sport.
But he’d rather be outside, kayaking rivers and lakes around Eastern Oregon.
With a personal flotation device and helmet, of course.
“A lot of times I’m out in February,” he said. “Some people kayak year-round.”
One of his favorite spots is Phillips Reservoir. He’ll leave town at 5 a.m. or earlier, then paddle out on the lake to watch the sunrise.
“I sit, drink my coffee and watch the steam rise off the lake,” he said.
He said opportunities to kayak abound in Eastern Oregon, and change with the seasons.
“Within two hours of us we have the best whitewater,” he said.
In addition to local lakes and rivers, Boise has a new Whitewater Park and the 2012 Boise Waterwater Fest happens July 27-29.
Hansen’s next kayak session at Sam-O is planned for noon to 1 p.m. July 14.
For more information, call him at 406-471-3274.