By: Tom Bamonte
Sarah Hartman ended her recent preview of her Great Slave Slave Lake trip with the words "follow your passions wherever they lead."
My passion for a new professional challenge has prompted me to move to Dallas, something I accomplished this past weekend.
Because of the early start of the high school year for my son in Dallas I had to make this move very quickly, which robbed me of a chance to say proper good-byes to all those in the Chicago paddling community who made the past decade a wonderful adventure for me (and so many others). Here's a partial and only illustrative list of thanks:
Thanks to people like Tom Heineman, Peg Cipolla and Dave Kaknes, who were there when I was starting out in kayaking with good advice and lots of patience. Peg's wise words of advice--"remember, the boat wants to stay upright, just work with it"--was most helpful in getting through the tippy phase.
Thanks to Dave Olson for being patient as I wasted his lessons on how to roll and for selling me my Prijon Kodiak, a tough and good first boat. The UIC pool sessions that Dave hosts have introduced hundreds of people to kayaking and provided a great resource for experienced paddlers to polish their skills (and show off for the newbies) in the winter. A special thanks to Joe Chang for the good advice on rolling that he gave me and many others over the years at UIC pool.
Thanks to people like Jim Tibensky, Wendy Madgwick, Paul Redzimski, Russ Johnson and Mike Agostinelli for modeling high-level paddling and graciously sharing their wisdom about paddling and life.
Thanks to people like Paul Doughty, Chuck Starks, Michael Taylor, Hether Hoffman, Mary Fairchild, Dave Naudi and Humberto Garcia for their inspiring love of kayaking and having fun.
Thanks to Ryan Rushton and the crew at Geneva Kayak Center (including Mike McDonald, Scott Fairty and Aaron Litchfield) for bringing ambitious rigor to sea kayaking in the region, helping to make Chicago a paddling destination for paddlers around the world. A special thanks to Ryan for "flunking" me at an ICE several years ago, as it provided helpful motivation for improving my paddling skills.
Thanks to people like Gary Mechanic, Tom Lindblade, Dan Plath and Erik Sprenne for giving tirelessly of their time to advocate and organize on behalf of the paddling community.
Thanks to Jim DesJardins and Beverly Serrell for the many ways large and small they have supported the Chicago paddling community. Seeing Jim wrestle with his boat in the snow and ice made on Chicago River paddles in January me realize that kayaking can and should be a life-long calling.
Thanks to the Bloyd-Peshkins and all the other instructors who embody a more refined approach to paddling than I--with broken, scruffed boat and a decided lack of appreciation for the nuances among paddling strokes--could ever hope for.
Thanks to Kristen and Tim Flentye for organizing the Chicago Shoreline Marathon, another reason why Chicago is now on the paddling map, and to Steve Quinn, who helped many paddlers get started at the Lincoln Park Boat Club (including me).
Thanks to the many strong paddlers who have given me and so many others comfort through the strength and steadiness of their presence on the water. Pierre Kornak, Dave Strauch, Luis Caro and Tim Philosophos come immediatedly to mind.
A special thanks to Pat Lutsch, who put up with me on three extended wilderness trips and taught me so much about camping and dealing with adversity.
Another special thanks to Bill Burton, Haris Subacius, and Sarah Hartman for sharing a 20 hour grand adventure across Lake Michigan just last year. That paddle helped prompt me to look inside myself and decide to chart a new life course.
I've just skimmed over a deep and vibrant paddling community that has its best days ahead. I owe each of you I've mentioned and each of you with whom I've paddled a debt of gratitude.
I'm looking forward to joining the smaller but seemingly scrappy kayaking community in Dallas. There are several sizable lakes within easy driving distance, the Gulf of Mexico is four hours away, and there is reportedly whitewater in Arkansas and elsewhere in the region. It is a 12 month paddling season, although summers are usually uncomfortably hot.
I will be coming back to Chicago occasionally, as my wife has just started graduate school and will likely remain in Chicago for at least two years. My Kodiak hangs in the garage and I hope I will be paddling in Lake Michigan and on the Chicago River again some time. I'll be reading of your adventures and accomplishments here.
I'm most proud of the work that CASKA did on safety and CASKA's advocacy for a "swimmable" water quality standard for the Chicago RIver, a standard that the USEPA ultimately mandated. Let's hope that CASKA continues to be an effective voice for paddlers and as a support network for paddlers who want to expand their boundaries as paddlers and people.