Kayaking Lifestyle


EDITOR’S DESK: Dirt Bag Paddlers is ever changing, like the rivers we love. That stems from our ever expanding worldwide Adminship that fuels our feed. Far and wide, we look for talent old and new to add to our list. We are pleased to announce the addition of young Ben Higson of the UK to DBP, a new Admin who perfectly illustrates January’s focus on #DBFamily and the many ways that gets expressed.

Getting started young in whitewater flies in the face of conventional wisdom, which holds that our pursuit of adventure in whitewater is inherently dangerous and is not in the realm of possibility for children with responsible parents. Coupled with this paradigm is the view that parents who allow their children to enjoy whitewater are “bad.” We are actively countering this fallacy all month long with stories designed to encourage young- and old!- to get out there and paddle our rivers together. We are nurturing the #DBFamily.

So we bring you Ben. He’s only 12 years old, our second youngest of nearly 200 Admins. (We range from 10 year old Gage Laughton, Captain of the ALL-WALLACE TEAM to Associate Editor TAZ Riggs who is 60. We have a handful of Admins currently in their teens.) Ben was introduced to kayaking, his passion, by his mother Lisette Nixon, who also started boating at a very young age, proof that this lifestyle is a great gift and family legacy, not the realm of fools and gamblers. We offer up yet another example of parents who have decided to teach dedication to craft and self reliancy, founded in an inherent love of nature and experience, to counter those “safe” 99% who fear whitewater and instead reinforce sitting on the couch playing video games, thinking of Pokemon Go as adventurous activity.

Ben first came to my attention through Deepak Rana, a longtime Admin and proud member of the ALL-WALLACE TEAM from Rishikesh, India who has been working and playing in Dubai for several months. Deepak hit me up on Facebook with a quick message: “Today 12 year old Ben was kayaking with me at Wadi Adventures. I gave him some DBP stickers, you can see photos, and I explained to him about DBP!”

Intrigued, I followed up by contacting the young shredder to hear more about him. Ben told me his life story so far. “I am 12 years old, but only just as my birthday is on December 18th. I started kayaking when I was 6 years old and I grew up in Cardiff, South Wales, UK. The first time I ever kayaked was in Llandysul on the River Tefi.”

“My home kayaking course is in Cardiff where I grew up. It is called CIWW which stands for Cardiff International White Water. It is a man made course with a very good freestyle hole. Although I love Cardiff my favourite place to kayak is in Nottingham, England, UK because there are lots of great holes for doing tricks in.”

DBP: How did you get started kayaking? Did your parents paddle as well?

BEN: I got introduced by my Mum, who started kayaking when she was 15 years old. She did slalom and polo kayaking so when I was younger I did a lot more slalom.

DBP: Freestyle takes much discipline and practice. What drew you to this aspect of whitewater?

BEN: I started freestyle when I was 9 years old when I first did a roll. The reason I started was because when I was 8 I saw a freestyle kayaker at CIWW Paddle Festival doing lots of cool tricks. Later that day I tried out the Jackson Shooting Star.

DBP: You are pulling some tricks already that people had never even thought of when I was your age! What’s your favorite move?

BEN: My favourite move is the Space Godzilla as I have only just learned it.
DBP: We all learn from the people who came before us. Who is your favorite star kayaker?

BEN: My star kayaker is Claire O’Hara. She was the first person to take me down Nottingham White Water Centre.

DBP: Gear means so much in boating, and it’s particularly challenging for kids and other small people to find gear that fits. What boat is your favorite for freestyle?

BEN: My favourite boat is the Jackson Shooting Star because it fits me really well. Although the Jackson Fun 1 also fits me, I do not like it as much because there is not enough volume to get air.

DBP: Speaking of, you’re getting pretty sweet air! What are your goals for freestyle? Do you compete in any competitions?

BEN: I compete on lots of GB competitions and do one international competition in the UK called the Hurley Classic which has been going for 27 years.

DBP: So you met Deepak at Wadi Adventures! How do you like Dubai? What’s it like to paddle there?

BEN: Wadi Adventure is a very good place for kayaking! It’s great if it is cold where you live in the winter.

DBP: Thanks for all the answers, and much luck to you, little guy! Welcome to the Dirt Bag Paddlers! Last question- what’s your plans for 2017?

BEN: My plan for 2017 is to learn lots more tricks especially the McNasty and Phonix Monkey.


By Chicago Mike

Editor-in-Chief "Chicago" Mike Toughill is co-founder of Dirt Bag Paddlers and former Peshtigo River Manager at Kosir's Rapid Rafts in Wisconsin. He's been Wallacing since 2003.

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