This is a guest blog by Kate Starr, a volunteer with the Inner City Outings Rafting Group
I got involved in Inner City Outings (ICO) Rafting through an old camp friend (Emilia!) who used to be a rafting volunteer. I grew up canoeing in summer camp, so I jumped at the chance to join a group that rafted all summer long. When the season calendar was published in April, I looked at my empty summer schedule and decided to sign up for all of the trips. Admittedly, my motivation may have been a little selfish. I envisioned myself spending the summer working on my tan, enjoying time on the river, getting out of the fog (San Francisco)…. But despite some of the selfish motives, I was really excited to share these experiences with groups who might not normally be exposed to rafting or the outdoors.
I belatedly realized that I may have been a little rash filling up my summer with trips, having never been on a participant trip. I started to have doubts. What if I weren’t good at interacting with participants? What if the participants didn’t interact with me? What if I threw the participants out of the raft and they couldn’t swim? But I had committed to a summer of participant trips - there was no backing out now. So it was with some trepidation that I arrived for my first participant trip. However, once we got into our boats and I got a chance to meet the participants as individuals, my anxiety dwindled. My excitement to head down river with my new “Crew” far surpassed my nerves. I had four teenage rafters. Four had never rafted. Two couldn’t swim. But when we hit the first set of rapids, everyone had ear-to ear grins on their faces. I don’t think those grins faded all day. Getting to see and be part of that exuberance was amazing.
What do I get out of ICO Rafting? Rafting down the river almost every weekend. Introducing new people to the river. Seeing a sport I’m passionate about through the eyes of “newbies” and being reminded all over again why I love to be on the river. Falling asleep to the sound of the running water and enthusiastic participants recounting the adventures of the day.
But ICO Rafting is not about what I get out of it. It’s about what the participants get out of it: non-swimmers voluntarily hopping out of the boat to swim rapids; kids who have never been in a boat learning to guide and successfully commanding the boat through rapids; participants growing before my eyes, overcoming their fears of the water and outdoors, and helping their friends. ICO Rafting provides space for both kids and adults to step out of their comfort zone and experience another aspect of the world. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?
Trip leaders and guides raft for their love of rafting and the outdoors. The best and luckiest part is that we get to share our passion with others.