Last year, we ran a moving Father’s Day letter from Christian Knight (a Kirkland, Wash.-based C&K Contributing Editor and proud paddling father of three) to his daughter, Eleanor. It communicated the deeper reasons why he is teaching her to kayak in world that increasingly distances her from lessons of risk and reward — lessons that can only be learned on a river. Here, Knight ups the emotional ante, bringing his children’s first paddling experiences to vivid life in the short film ‘Why We Teach You,’ above, as he reads the following abbreviated version of the letter.
(Read the full version here).

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You are growing up in an ecosystem that has replaced survival instincts with building codes.

Instead of toughness, this world has given you ibuprofen.

You have guardrails to prevent your tumble, lifeguards to keep you in the shallow end, and teachers to marshal you away from the forest surrounding your school and into the predictability of the playground within it.

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These are good things, of course. They are, after all, what will help you to live long lives.

In the process, however, I fear our attempts to lengthen your lives are lobotomizing the savages inside each of you.

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This is why we are teaching you to kayak rivers.

The river will be the objective disciplinarian I can never force myself to be.

It will reward you with euphoria when you do well and will rob you of your self-confidence when you don’t.

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In those moments you’ll recognize just how precarious you are, or how precarious you could be if not for the skill you started developing as a child.

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That skill is what can transform the uncertainty of rapid into a curiosity about it.

That skill is what will connect you to the river and will inspire you to protect it.

And what will reawaken the savage inside each of you. — Christian Knight


— Read Knight’s original letter to his daughter.

— Check out the 5 Things Bobby Miller learned kayaking with his daughter, plus Micah Kneidl paddling tandem with his 4-year-old son.

— 5 ways to hook kids on flatwater kayaking.

— Read Alan Kesselheim’s tips on how to raise a paddler and canoe with your brood