Ocoee Race with my 5 year old daughter

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Lets face it every year we cannot predict the rain or weather making us keep our fingers crossed for our best kayak season. Well this year was truly my best. Not because of my first Colorado Trip in 10 years, countless classes, watching my old students kill it, but more importantly sharing my love and joy of the Ocoee River with my daughter, Rory Jolee Adkins. This summer started with our first Ocoee run. As a parent we take it at a pace relative to our kids reactions. It went so well and she wanted more. After three trips and listening to all the other guides talk she wanted to do the Upper Ocoee. As I dad I was not nervous in my skill of taking her down but more of her being able to handle the constant waves of the Upper Ocoee. They are five times her size and more like the Zambezi to her. Our first Upper Ocoee trip was so amazing. She even tells people that her favorite rapid is Alien Falls which just happened to be her first waterfall style boof. One of the coolest parts of that entire day is I picked her a flower at the put in and she kept it for the entire day. Here is our video for that day.

With the summer behind us people started talking about the Ocoee Race. She kept hearing it and asking me about it. She insisted she wanted to race with me and all my Ocoee friends were so encouraging. I was not sure if I wanted to take her but she kept persisting so I said if you want to race then we will race. The morning of race day was little hectic. First timed race with her was a little different. Fall meant more gear and my biggest concern was keeping her warm. That morning after arriving at the put in it was so amazing seeing people talk to her about racing and seeing her excitement. She truly was blown away. The race was different for her. She usually got a chance to breath and relax between rapids and this was so much more. But she understood the concept and absolutely loved it. As we went through the rapids all the people would start cheering for her. Sometimes to the point of making me tear up. This ended up being one of the greatest moments for me as a father. Considering we stopped at Staging Eddy, gave out high fives, only had me paddling and me passing the raft at the finish line, I was ecstatic to realize i was only 30 seconds behind all of my friends. Rory thought this was so cool and made sure to tell Hunt Jennings, Joe Grudger, and everyone else she was coming for them. Which was funny because she is so small she could not even paddle.

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After the race, she was a little cold but she was so happy. We went to the award ceremony early to see friends. She ran around, played cornhole, collected bottle caps and was having so much fun. When awards started to my surprise they called my name to ask where my daughter was and gave a special award to my Rory. As they called her name she was running through everyone saying “ I’m Owie Jowie” She weaved through all the people to get on stage and was the happiest little girl int he world. She had just won her first trophy. She was so excited she walked around telling everyone and showing them her trophy. That night she snuggled with me and told me that i was the best dad ever and next year we will beat all my friends because she will be a big girl and can paddle. I want to personally thank all the organizers and TVCC for organizing this race and for my friends for cheering her on. It was very humbling.. It was a great day As a Dad and I look forward to doing more next year. Here are a few things I learned about taking kids that will help you in your time with your kid.

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1. Go at their pace- if you take your time and go at their pace they won’t get an early scary moment which will make them want to keep going

2. Remember the small things- insects, animal, trees, beauty of the world are the little things that they remember, it does not have to be big rapids

3. Dress them to be too hot- you can always take a piece of gear off but it is hard to add it.

4. Bring candy- They will do a lot for candy

Hope to see everyone next year and at the races in Alabama this spring,

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Jeremy Adkins

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