I've been canoeing since I was eleven (canoeing merit badge in scouts). Had my next flare up of real interest in canoeing while in college at Virginia Tech. Tried to get with other boaters to learn from them about 1965. Got rejection letter from Lou Matacia (sp?) stating that their group was not accepting new members. Spent 70's in driest parts of Africa teaching and playing with motorcycles. Returned home to the valley with wife and three kids about 1978. Taught another couple of years, then managed a trout farm for most of the '80's.
The present affair with boats began about eleven years ago while on a family vacation. We had been grooming Christmas trees in Pocahontas county, WV and finished in less time than we had estimated, so we rented canoes and paddled the Shenandoah near Luray. The kids and I began to return to the river on weekends. Soon thereafter I quit the trout farm to go into business as a handyman and my time became more flexible. The oldest two children, Valerie and Edith, liked canoeing but did not become obsessed with it the way my son, Eli and I did. We became paddling buddies and soon were paddling all over the appalachians on weekends. We joined the Coastals and took some instruction at RiverSport and NOC. We learned to build, outfit and repair boats and made our own mitts, booties and sprayskirts (the latter for Eli's C"-1"). We went to work for Mountain Streams and Trails on the Cheat, Yough and Gauley; and Eli worked for them two summers before going south to Warren Wilson College, Team Savage, the NOWR circuit and NOC.
During Eli's junior high and high school years we paddled together every weekend. Now that he has moved out on his own, I am pleased and flattered that he still puts up with me on the Upper Yough, Section IV, and similar runs, and that we still share our many friends. I still get out twenty to thirty weekends a year, depending on water levels. This season I have paddled on the Caney Fork, Maury, James, Shenandoah, Cheat, Dry, Potomac, North, Gandy, and a few others. Memorial weekend we plan to go to Rock Island to watch Eli compete in the East Coast Rodeo Team Trials. My wife, Sharon, has been supportive, but she is not a paddler.
I am now learning the business of being an athletic agent and promoter. Eli's run at the world open canoe rodeo title (December in New Zealand) requires funds. Here is his sponsorship picture to date:
Savage V, Inc. Lotus Designs, Inc.
Nantahala Outdoor Center
A dozen individual sponsors have contributed $35 to $50 each. It'll take eighty more individual sponsors in addition to the corporations to raise the $4500 needed to pay for the New Zealand trip with the US team (travel, sustenance, student loan repayment, and other expenses continue through three months of lost wages). Eli will be giving programs for the Coastal Canoeists Fall Quarterly meeting and The Massanutten Rotary Club in June.
Checks and inquiries for Eli may be sent to: Paul Helbert (540) 896-7107
12558 North Valley Pike
Broadway, Virginia 22815