Water rushes past him as he paddles toward the edge of the cliff. His mind is clear of all distractions, focused only on the waterfall ahead. As he paddles closer and begins his run, pure adrenaline kicks in and he goes over the edge, falling 80 feet to the water below.
Galen Volckhausen, 17, has been kayaking since he was seven years old, when his dad taught him. From then on he started play boating, which is doing tricks on waves, and when he was 14 he began creeking, which is going down creeks creeks and waterfalls. He’s been hooked ever since.
“It makes you feel alive in ways not many other things can.” Volckhausen said. “You feel every part of your body, you feel everything, your stomach drops out. ”
Volckhausen dreams to have a career in kayaking, competing in competitions, making videos, leading tours, anything as long as he’s in the water. Volckhausen is currently sponsored by Jackson Kayaks, Cheri Bundi, and Shred Ready Helmets and he is on the roster of the Airborn Athletics Kayak Team. Currently, he has a job working for Wilderness Tours in Canada where he will film video and kayak in competitions.
“I am working on making kayaking my life,” Volckhausen said. “That covers everything from getting sponsors, trying to earn travel money and looking into careers that I can do while still kayaking all the time.”
Volckhausen regularly competes in freestyle competitions and has travelled to countries like Chile and Canada. He’s also taught beginner kayaking classes with his father, Jim, the manager at the Cornell Team and Leadership center. His coach and mentor, Clay Wright, always saw Galen’s potential for greatness, especially in how quickly he learns.
“He can mentally hear what we say than physically do what is described,” Wright said. “[Volckhausen] is fun to coach, so much so that we are challenged to achieve the same results with other students.”
The events at these competitions can vary from slaloms, going through a course and passing through all the checkpoints, to time trial races, to how many tricks they can accomplish in an allotted time. Among his accomplishments, Volckhausen has won the Bristol Vermont race and he was a finalist in the Canada Cup. He says the atmosphere there is fun and stress free.
“You rarely see stress and anger in kayaking. Everyone is having a great time, you see the top paddlers always congratulating each other and giving tips,” he said.
Vockhausen decided to go to school at The New River Academy, based in Virginia. New River Academy is a private school that revolves around kayaking and travelling. He takes classes, but as soon as the day is done he is in the water, improving his skills and doing as much creeking as he can. The school schedules trips all over the world where students can kayak and compete in competitions.
Vockhausen has come a long way in achieving his dream, and he wants to continue kayaking for as long as he possibly can. He’s now working on helping show the public what the sport really is, and showing them what they really do. He’s already fulfilled one part of his dream, and all that’s ahead of him are more drops, more runs and more opportunities.
Chasing Bigger Drops and Bigger Dreams
By Alex Ash
Galen goes down a 20 foot waterfall in Rio Turbio.