K is for Kayaker: Student discovers love for water sport

Paducah senior Matt Hodges, a worker at the Outdoor Recreation Adventure Center, teaches others about kayaking through clinics every month at the Preston Center.

Shane Wood

Paducah senior Matt Hodges thrashes through rough rapids for a profession and a hobby. Hodges said he understands the sacrifices he has to make in order to work in the water, and nothing is going to hold him back from what he loves to do – kayaking.

As a guide, he said he gets the opportunity to kayak towards the end of the day with fellow employees.

“I love being a guide,” Hodges said. “You’re out there doing what you love, but it’s fulfilling because you’re helping others experience that too.”

For the past two summers, Hodges has worked in North Carolina for a white water rafting company. As a raft guide, he said the occupation is a “means to an end.”

“You live in these really wacky close knit communities,” Hodges said. “The first summer I lived in a tent for three months and this past summer I lived in a bus.”

“Living conditions are pretty poor. We had a bath house we had to share with customers. My first season, I took six showers in three months.”

During his first summer, Hodges went to North Carolina expecting the company to provide housing. Once he got there, he found out he had to buy a tent to live in. And through sunshine and rain, his tent was his home.

Regardless of his living quarters, Hodges said he still “loved it.”

Although the job didn’t provide housing, it did always give him “buddies to go out on the water with.”

Ultimately, he said he wants to be more involved in teaching others about kayaking.

“The guiding world is definitely separate from the leadership and education realm. I would like to be in a position where I can instruct kayaking,” Hodges said.

WKU’s Outdoor Recreation Adventure Center (ORAC) has given Hodges the opportunity to teach others about kayaking. ORAC provides kayaks and kayak roll clinics once every month.

The roll clinic teaches the basics of kayaking, including the action of righting a capsized kayak.

“One of the essential things you need to learn when you start white water paddling is to roll,” he adds. “If you don’t know how, there is no way you can just figure it out on your own.”

The final roll clinic of the semester is Dec. 6. The clinic costs $10 for students and is located in the Preston Center Pool.

“The hardest part about kayaking is getting over the initial fear of the power of water,” Hodges said. “Being upside down in the water might be the most unnatural feeling in the world. Once you push past that fear and you get comfortable with you boat, you can begin to progress to bigger, more technical water.”

Nick Lawhon, who is currently a graduate student from Gallatin, Tenn., is a fellow kayaker and friend of Hodges. Lawhon said he paddles quite frequently depending on the weather.

“Depending on the rain, four or five times a week,” Lawhon said.

Lawhon said there are multiple spots around Bowling Green to kayak, and Barren River Lake is a nice flat water place.

Bowling Green senior Meg Harris enjoys kayaking and she works at ORAC. She said knowing the river is one of the most important parts about kayaking.

“Whatever body of water you are on, know where the dips, eddies and rocks are going to be,” Harris said. “Water is a powerful thing.”

She said the river provides seclusion and the beauty of nature from the perspective of the river is a way to get out of the “everyday routine.”

“You see things you would never be able to see,” Harris said.