I get the same feeling every time I kneel down in a canoe, and push off from the dock, as I do when I knock the snow off of my boots and clip into my Nordic skis. It’s indescribable, but I have an inkling that it’s the feeling most people get when they’re about to do something they love.
I started camp in 2014, and I signed up for the first trip offered that summer: a canoeing day trip to Grafton Ponds. I had a blast, and the counselor who had paddled with me encouraged me to come to the canoeing department and start my first rank. The Cabeen and canoeing docks soon became my home. In the fleeting three and a half weeks I spent at Aloha that summer, I fell in love with canoeing.
I completed my first two ranks in 2014 and came back the next summer ready for more. I quickly found that my passion lay in solo paddling; I became obsessed with the minute precision needed to skillfully move a canoe on one’s own. I developed a sense of control for my life that I had never felt before. Every movement and adjustment is intentional in a canoe—the small pressure of water on the paddle or the slight lean to one side of the boat can cause the whole craft to rapidly turn. While working on my ranks, I spent countless hours seeking feedback from counselors standing on the dock regarding these small details. Of course, there is so much more to canoeing than mastering precision behind every stroke—most importantly, there is the love for being outdoors, challenging yourself on trips, and seeking adventure.
To me, the essence of canoeing and Nordic skiing is quite similar. Similarly to ranks at camp, I’ve pursued high levels in skiing—competing regionally, nationally, and internationally. While a large portion of training emphasizes strength and endurance, the technique of my skiing itself is something I am constantly striving to perfect. I have role models in skiing just as I had role models in the canoeing department—people I look up to who respect and love the attention to detail that comes with the sport. It is without a doubt that I am a better skier because of the love I acquired at Aloha for the little things. Sometimes its these little things that shave off only the few seconds needed to get onto the podium.
My last summer as a camper, I kept a tally of how many times I fell out of a canoe. It became something for which I was proud. Some days it would happen multiple times, and I soon learned to keep an extra white shirt and pair of green shorts in my backpack. Falling out of a canoe meant that I was pushing the edge of something, testing the limit to see how far I could tip or lean before falling in. I was in search of a balance, a balance between the known and the unknown. I feel the same balance as I ride the edge of my ski on a downhill or throw my foot out in front of me and lunge at the finish line. I spent hundreds of hours at Aloha practicing my canoeing strokes and I have spent thousands of hours skiing, and I still haven’t been able to navigate the tension between the two. I have, however, become comfortable when I lose balance.
With snow on the ground, the ski season is already well underway. I’ll spend this winter racing throughout New England and competing in events to qualify for Junior Nationals. Next fall, I’m excited to be heading to Bowdoin College where I will continue ski racing at the collegiate Division 1 level. I cannot thank Aloha enough for emphasizing the importance of doing what you love and encouraging the pursuit of passions. I will, of course, be looking forward to the ice melting in the spring and my first paddle of 2020.
Aggie is a member of Club ’18 and is an Aloha Admiral, the highest canoeing rank.