Last week I made a new friend on the river. He is also from Ohio, which I don’t know if you know means, “land of no whitewater.” He told me he specifically moved here for the whitewater and the beer, not bad reasons to move to Asheville. His question for me was, “How do you find people to paddle with?”
I was asking myself the same question when I first moved to Asheville just over a year ago. For someone who doesn’t know anyone in a new area it can be hard to make friends let alone find a solid group of people to paddle with. It took me about two months to meet the people whom I felt comfortable paddling with consistently.
You might be asking yourself why it took so long since I work for people who paddle. True, but I didn’t feel like I could paddle at their level so instead of paddling with them I tried finding people more at my level (Class III). Which is harder than you would think living in Asheville. There is a huge paddling community in the area, but it’s hard to find these people when you don’t know where to look.
It’s like that saying, “It’s all about who you know”, couldn’t have been more true for me. I was a little timid at first, not super confident in my paddling skills, so I started off small. I found a website for the area where people put together beginner friendly trips that all were welcome to join. Only problem was that they didn’t paddle as often as I was hoping to and none of their trips had progressions, and I was looking to step up my skills. (I now know about other clubs in the surrounding area who do have set progressions for people looking to challenge themselves.) Eventually I met a paddler who had similar skill levels and availability through one of these meet ups. He is well connected in the paddling community and through him I started to meet other people and paddle more challenging rivers.
I hate to say that I meet my friends online but it’s kind of true. Someone added me to a Facebook group that started a chain reaction to being hooked up with other groups. So many of the people I now paddle with started as a picture on the computer screen that I eventually met in person and paddled with. Now when I meet someone new to the area I automatically add them to all the groups that I am a part of to save them the time so they can get on the water ASAP.
I would say at least a few times a month I paddle with someone new. It took a lot of courage for me to put myself out there and meet up with random people, but it’s worth it. You’ll meet some pretty awesome paddlers and eventually find that solid group(s) that fits your paddling needs.