Roll Baby Roll!


Avery Reeder, Staff Reporter

The Salida High School community recently introduced a new kayaking team that currently consists of 15 members. SHS freshman Finn Blackburn originally came up with the idea and collaborated with math teacher Josh Bechtel, an experienced kayaker, to form the team. Bechtel is excited to be a part of the rejuvenation of youth in kayaking at SHS.

“It’s a good way to bond with people when you’re on the river. I’ve always said you can kayak with somebody one day and be a friend for life,’’ Bechtel said. 

Bechtel started kayaking when he was eight years old. He started in an inflatable kayak and switched to a traditional, hard-shell boat when he was 10 or 11. 

“It’s a good way to bond with people when you’re on the river. I’ve always said you can kayak with somebody one day and be a friend for life,’’ Bechtel said. 

He said that his kayaking experience was elevated in college. He always loved it, and his love has only grown throughout the years.

“I started training with the best kayakers in the world […] just being surrounded by the top athletes in the sport at that time elevated my game very rapidly,” said Bechtel. 

Bechtel has been lucky enough to kayak in over 20 countries around the world when he’s not teaching calculus or precalculus at SHS. His most memorable trip was when he traveled to the Santo Domingo river where he kayaked the steepest runnable water. 

“We planned a three day expedition and the entire river went into the mountain and disappeared in the middle of a jungle, so we hiked out and got held hostage by the local zapatitos for multiple hours with matches. We paid our way out of it, and it worked out well. That’s the first one that pops into my mind as far as most memorable,” Bechtel said. 

Blackburn, who created the team, is very passionate about kayaking. He thinks it’s the heart of Salida. Kayaking has been very close to his heart for a long time.

“I’ve always had a love for kayaking. It’s just become the only thing I want to do at the moment,” Blackburn stated.

Right now the team is practicing once a week at the Salida swimming pool. As summer nears and the river becomes warmer they are hoping to increase practice to two to three times a week. They’re currently working on teaching kids how to be comfortable in kayaks and how to not flip. Bechtel hopes this team lasts for many years to come. 

“I have a seven year old and a five year old, and they are starting to show a lot of interest in kayaking so I think it would be cool if we could establish this kayak team now. If that’s something that continues, it can be something that they can grow into,” Bechtel said.

Blackburn is planning on competing, but he doesn’t believe the others will be ready until next year. He is hoping this team helps grow a community as well as helping people develop their kayaking skills. Bechtel wants to share his kayaking passion with SHS students.

“My only goal is to share my love of the river with other kids and to get as many people exposure to the sport of kayaking and rivers as possible,” Bechtel said. 

Bechtel and Blackburn hope to enrich Salida youth and the Salida community with this new kayaking team. Blackburn hopes to grow the sport and turn it into something that sticks.