Idahoans With Whitewater Running Through Their Veins
(page 6 of 8)
Ages: Alec, 14, Hayden 11, Connor 7
Hometown: Meridian, ID
Favorite Descents: North Fork of the Payette, ID (Alex); South Fork of the Payette, ID (Hayden); Main Payette & Indian Creek, ID (Connor)
If you were to pass by the Banks’ parking lot at the confluence of the Payette’s North and South Forks just over a decade ago, you may have noticed a playpen, where a watchful mother or father kept an eye over their young child under the shade of a tree. This is how Mike and Jody Voorhees—both dedicated paddlers—got their boating fix. “We’d switch off,” says Jody. “I’d do a run and he’d watch Alec, then he’d go.”
Maybe it was all this watching and not doing that made Alec want to be a boater. Or maybe it was the attention he got, his dad says. But right from the start, the kid wanted to be a paddler.
Eleven years and two kids later, the Voorhees are a paddling family, thanks in large part to new kayaks made for kids. Alec, 14, has been the example, being the aggressive water kid who set the bar for little brothers Hayden, 11, and Connor, 7. “Hayden and Connor saw me in the water and wanted to try and beat me,” he says. “I think it’s that brother, competitive edge thing that makes them want to get into it.”
They have big shoes to fill. Alec finished second at last year’s National Freestyle Championships in Colorado in the under-14 division. But he’s really found his groove as a river runner and has become a part of the North Fork tradition. Mike started leading Alec down the big run a couple of years ago and Alec has slowly progressed and is now turning the tables. Last summer, as the North Fork exploded to record flood levels, Alec ran the lower five miles nearly 10 times and has done top to bottom runs at more manageable levels. His parents don’t worry about him because, Jody says, “he doesn’t have a big ego.”
“When my dad lead me down the river, he always knew I’d make good decisions,” Alec says. “He trusts me.”
Hayden has been on the lower five at lower levels but still enjoys the less stressful “play boating” more. And being with his clan: “We can all be together as a family at the same time,” he says.
When Connor got his first kayak, he slept with it for weeks and took it to show-and-tell. “His classmates didn’t really know what it was,” Mike laughs. So they gave a demonstration, dad flipping son upside down in the kayak to show the class how to roll.
The family hopes to travel to Chile next winter to run rivers and Alec would like to go to a high school that specializes in paddling, like World Class Academy in Montana or the New River Academy in West Virginia, schools that base studies around travel. Until then, the Voorhees will paddle all over Idaho. Together. As a family. Playpens no longer included.