Our final installment is from the overall winner of the contest, Zac Childs. He ended up winning a brand new ZRE paddle because of the below essay. Enjoy the read!
To me canoeing is my life, it is all I think about, talk about and dream about. As a young kid this dream started by seeing my dad’s enthusiasm each year as we watched the paddlers line up for the start of the Marathon. I remember watching the Marathon and dreaming of the day I could enter that race. When I was 13 we bought are first racing canoe and tested our skills which were not too bad. Coming from a family with no paddling background my dad and I both knew we liked canoeing but had little to no knowledge of canoe racing. Our big break would come when one of our family friends said they knew a paddler by the name of Chuck Hewitt who lived in our home town of Bay City. That same friend came to our house looking to buy our swimming pool. My father told the friend he could have the pool for free under one condition, he introduce us to Chuck Hewitt so we could learn more about paddling. That same summer, my dad and I were invited by Chuck to go train with him and Erin Thompson. That was easily one of the coolest days of my life. Any average young boy would get excited about meeting their favorite MLB or NFL player but not me, marathon paddlers were the coolest people on the face of the earth. Chuck helped introduce us to the world of canoe racing and has provided more help to us than anyone could have asked for.
But with all of the great things that came along with my love of paddling (fitness, spending quality time with my dad, and a tremendous comradery among the paddling community) it has also brought some difficult challenges. As a teenager in school you are often considered cool if you play school sports, well when you quit playing all school related sports to focus on canoeing let me tell you, you get picked on pretty good. I was made fun of by almost anyone you could think of from good friends to teachers. Most weren't familiar with the sport or even knew it existed. Very few of my classmates congratulated me or understood the commitment it took to attempt the Marathon a month after my 15th birthday. As a young kid that can destroy your confidence but I never let that stop me, I actually couldn't wait to prove them all wrong. Paddling has brought me more joy than anything in the world, from the people I have met to the stories I have made, I truly love canoeing. The marathon itself has tested me and my mind like nothing ever could. When my dad and I entered the Marathon for the first time as a rookie team nothing could prepare us for the physical and mental lows and highs. The marathon is a special race to many people, but for the ones who have completed it the race means a lot more than anyone can describe. Crossing the finish line is one of, if not the most amazing feelings a person could ever experience. To me canoeing means everything, it has shaped me into a better person and I believe it will continue to do so. I truly don't know what I would be doing without paddling, it means more to me than I can put into words. Canoe racing is a unique sport, a lifestyle and a passion. What other sport is there where athletes are competing against one another from teens to 70 plus year olds? The knowledge shared to newcomers from the experienced paddlers is amazing, paddling is truly a beautiful sport. Fitness, family and friendship, that's what paddling means to me.