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Phoebe Jones - Canoeing Essay

In the Youth Essay contest there was a tie for 3rd place. We decided that we needed to share the other 3rd place winner's essay since everyone has been enjoying them so much. we hope you enjoy!


Phoebe Jones

age 14 Granby, Connecticut

Family. That’s the first word that comes to my mind when I think of canoeing. Whether it’s my actual family going on an overnight trip down the Erie Canal when I was 4 or my canoeing family supporting each other through whatever comes along, family and canoeing have always gone hand in hand for me. That’s why canoeing is so important and special to me. I love canoeing because it feels like family no matter who you’re racing with, everyone supports each other, and the community is so welcoming.

Over my ten years of canoeing, I have raced with 13 different paddlers, and every race has felt just as natural. My usual partner is my dad, Eric Jones, but since the first time I did a downriver race without him, I have loved the feeling of switching it up every now and then. One of the most important things about whomever you’re racing with is that you have to trust them. This seems like it would be difficult, especially if you’ve spent most of your canoeing career paddling with one person, but it’s never been that hard for me. It all stems from the fact that NECKRA (the New England Canoe and Kayak Racing Association) feels like family. When I was eight my parents trusted one of our friends in the paddling community so much that they had full confidence sending their eight-year-old daughter down a Class 2+ river with them. We spend time together before races at registration or just waiting for the timer to say go, and we spend time together after races at awards or getting ice cream to celebrate a good win. It’s so easy to trust these people because it just feels right to treat them like family.

Photo credit - Phil Zolla

NECKRA is a family, and every family has its fair share of hardships or struggles. Members of the NECKRA family have had some of these over the years, but they just serve to prove how supportive NECKRA is. One example of this comes in the form of Gus Madore. Most of the people I paddle with are adults, but five years into my racing career a new teenage rookie named Gus showed up. He was quiet, never got cold, and got really good really fast. In fact, he got so good that in 2017 he qualified for the United States Junior Wildwater Team. The Wildwater Junior World Championship was being held in Austria and we were all so excited for him to have this opportunity, but it was extremely expensive to attend. However, no one in the NECKRA family was going to let him miss out on this opportunity, so we started brainstorming ways to help. This was right around the time of Boateater, the race that my family puts together every year. We put together a plan and put out the call. At the race registration table we had all kinds of baked goods and foods that people had brought to show their support for Gus. At the end of the day, this bake sale raised around $100 for Gus’ trip to Austria. Because of this bake sale, along with other efforts made my NECKRA members, Gus was able to get to Austria and compete in the Wildwater Worlds. NECKRA rallied together and supported Gus just like a family would, and it just goes to show the familial environment and one of the qualities that makes me love my canoeing family as much as I do.

I have been canoeing since I was 4, and even though I don’t remember, I’m sure the people at NECKRA welcomed me with open arms. That’s what we do. You race with us and you’re like family. It doesn’t matter who you are, or what skills you have. In the past three

years, our welcoming nature has brought a new champion into the mix. In 2016, an enthusiastic (to say the least) newcomer showed up to our 5th point series race of the season. This was the first race that she did as a member of NECKRA, and I can’t imagine where the canoeing community would be now without her. Since that first race in 2016 the enthusiastic newcomer, Amy Thornton, has done more than 80 races and has scored 2208 points in the downriver point series. In 2019, Amy tied for 4th in the downriver point series. The overwhelming success of this paddler is due, in part, to the welcoming attitude of NECKRA and the paddlers that are a part of it.

I started out writing this essay to tell you why I love canoeing and maybe win a new paddle, but as I wrote it I realized that there’s no way I would love canoeing as much as I do if I hadn’t canoed as a part of NECKRA. Every NECKRA member is like family to me, and that’s why I love canoeing so much. It is and has always been synonymous with family for me. Canoeing and NECKRA have made me the person I am today, and have taught me a lot about how to be a good friend and person in general. Writing this essay has given me a new appreciation for canoeing and NECKRA, so I want to thank you for offering this opportunity and I hope you’ll consider me when picking a winner of this contest.

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