Photo by Patrick Cavan Brown

While Wayne “Wayner” Dickert is working toward his Master of Divinity degree at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary in Charlotte, N.C., it’s on the water, preaching his paddling wisdom, where he truly shines.

“I like to teach a concept and work around that, rather than just a skill,” says the 1996 Olympic slalom paddler, who has been part of the Nantahala Outdoor Center’s instructional program since 1981. “That way students understand the thought processes involved.”

Dickert developed the school’s Rapid Progressions approach to learning, which is now a cornerstone of NOC’s entire paddling program. At the curriculum’s core is the school’s PREP for Success concept, an acronym for Posture, Rotation, Eyesight and Positive Attitude. “That lays the foundation for everything else,” says Dickert, 51. “If you understand those four things, it makes everything else safer and more efficient.”

As an example, he points to the importance of a good forward stroke, and how everything else falls into place after that. “A lot of old-school paddlers don’t rotate as much as they should,” he says. “We try to emphasize that, and the importance of driving the boat, and how it applies to everything else. Once students grasp this concept, you can tweak individual techniques from there.”

The former director of the Nantahala Racing Club also enjoys a large pedestal in getting his messages across. He’s published three instructional books and two instructional DVDs, with another publication slated for release this year. His next book, tentatively titled Paddling with Life Appreciation Skills, combines his ministry component as well. “A lot of paddling skills hold true for life,” he says. “You can go off track in both, but can learn how to be more stable whenever it happens.”
– Eugene Buchanan