First Descents Kayak Camp

We LOVE First Descents!

First Descents Kayak Trip on the Rogue River in Oregon

We all love First Descents!

Last year Sundance Kayak School had the honor and privilege of hosting a First Descents white water kayaking camp on the Rogue River in Oregon. For those of you who don’t know about First Descents, it’s a pretty awesome organization! They are a non-profit based out of Denver, Colorado. Their goal is to offer adults who have battled with cancer an opportunity to experience an outdoor adventure for FREE! Participants can choose from climbing, surfing or kayaking. And well, kayaking is where Sundance comes in!

Learning the Wet Exit with Sundance Kayak School on the Rogue River in Oregon

High fives after learning the wet exit!

This past summer we had 11 amazing participants arrive at The Riverhouse, our historic Sundance lodge, on the Rogue River for 5 days of absolute fun. The first morning started off by getting everyone outfitted with the appropriate gear and kayaks needed for the week. With Almeda Park right next door, we headed over to get in the Rogue River. After learning the whitewater kayaking basics like how to keep the boat up right and what to do if you end up upside down (it’s happens to all of us at some point), we learned some paddle strokes to help us navigate our new crafts. It wasn’t long before everyone was ready to paddle their first downstream adventure!

Whitewater river kayaking on the Rogue River in Oregon

Sidekick all smiles after success in the first rapid!

As the week progressed we saw tons of progress on the water. I’ve never seen such a determined group of kayakers. Before long, they were proficient in skills such as eddy turns, peel outs and ferries. When we had the occasional flip, they were all brave enough to wait for the T-rescue. But heck, let’s admit it, as kayakers we’re all in between swims!

Sundance Kayak School participants ready for a overnight kayak trip

Everyone ready for an overnight trip?

I think it’s safe to say that the highlight for a lot of us was the overnight river trip. We got to the Rogue River in the early afternoon paddled down to our riverside camp. It was the perfect choose your own adventure spot! Whether it was stand up paddle boarding, surfing on a wave, ducky wars, adventure swims or relaxing in the sun, everyone found their perfect activity. As the sunset things started to wind down… NOT! Break out the dare ware, hula hoops & camp games! I must admit, there were things I never thought I would see a grown man wear but, at First Descent camps, there are no rules.

kayak school fun on the Rogue River


There’s this thing called “FD Magic” and, after participating in two First Descent camps, I couldn’t agree more. It’s hard to put your finger on it but it’s something words cannot describe. We all faced fears, overcame challenges, and embraced in tons of laughter. The friendships are strong and the memories created are so unique, just the thought of them will make you smile.

These adventures wouldn’t be possible without the help of volunteers and donations First Descents receives. A special thank you to The Palette Fund for providing the delicious, healthy, made from scratch meals that fueled these kayakers all week. To learn more about First Descents and ways you can help, visit:

Thanks again to all of who made this such an incredible week: Car Bomb, Toad, Racer, ZhiZhi, Pandora, Iron Woman, Side Kick, Keeper, Beast, Rainbow DigiKat, Yogi, Sasquatch, Tarzan & Gnomeo.

EXTRA SPECIAL thanks to:

Patch & Pedro the awesome FD Staff that keep things flowing smooth

Burn for capturing the week’s mayhem and laughter from behind the lens (All photos are complements of Becky Jarman)

Kirby & Wampus for keeping us healthy & doing all the behind the scenes errands for the week

And last, but certainly not least…. Mama Mia & Lamb Chop for your countless hours in the kitchen making EVERYTHING from scratch! My taste buds are still in awe… THANK YOU!! ~Turbo



About JR

JR's enthusiasm for life readily extends to all things whitewater and at Sundance, we consider him the guru of everything kayak. He spends his summers on the Rogue River as an awesome kayak instructor and during the off season, he gravitates toward any body of water that will give him some thrill. He tends to surround himself with others that share the same passion.