In a past not too far away, I have sometimes judged people for their dedication. I couldn’t understand how someone would want to allocate so much time, energy and money to a sport or a hobby, why they’d train restlessly or miss time with their family. But the best way to understand people is to listen. Listen with an open mind and you may get it. I have listened to stories of many passionate people over the last year or so, but for some reason, David Prothero’s long love for whitewater is what did it for me.
For him, water has given him back more than what he gave it, much more.
It all started in Nepal. After making it all the way across the globe for a climbing trip, he decided to make the most of it and went for a rafting trip.
“I went for a five day trip and it was lots of fun. After that, I moved to Banff, Alberta and went on another trip in Idaho where I ended up buying one of the guide’s kayak. I paddled a lot around Banff and on the Kananaskis, swimming, chasing my boat or having my board chasing me down the river a lot.”
Despite the steep learning curve, Dave kept up with it. He moved back to Vancouver Island and spent a winter paddling around the Comox Valley before going across the country to spend a few season playing and working on the warmer waters of the Ottawa River. He loved the variety different rivers and scenery provided and wanted more.
“I went to Australia, spent over a year paddling there. Then I kept bouncing around in different countries, 16 of them I think. I traveled, came back here, traveled some more. I kayaked a lot and kept kayaking. Traveling is pretty amazing and not something I take for granted. I feel privileged to be able to say, “I’m going to hop on a jet plane next week to go do what I love.” You get to take in cultures and languages and meet amazing people along the path.”
Whitewater gave Dave the travel bug. He loved everything about it, the landscape, the culture, the language, the overall experience. From Asia to South America, he would go where the rivers flowed, but a fluke accident forced him back home on Vancouver Island. After six months without working and a year off the water, he was able to slowly get back into paddling and train his way back to his beloved whitewater.
“Not being able to paddle for so long sucked. There is no other word. It was horrible mentally. I wouldn’t want to go through that again. I worked on photos, going back through them and sorting them. It was the only good part. The accident was just a fluke, but it did a lot of damage. It still bothers me to dis day but I still can paddle so it’s ok.”
Dave was able to focus on the good part. Being away from his favourite activity for a year and a half allowed him to consider settling down. He signed up and worked through a residential care aid diploma and got a job at the local hospital, but that didn’t mean he would have to stop traveling, it only meant he would have a place to come back to.
“I kayak on and off the island. Kayaking is awesome, I love it. I knew I loved it right away from my first trip in Nepal. It’s hard work but seeing things from the river’s perspective is the best. Exploring its beauty from the water and meeting the people is what really what interests me. You see some very unique places that not many people get to see.”
Dave is fully dedicated to the sport. Even after all these years, he’s still as motivated to get out and bring people along, whether it’s to run first descents and waterfalls or just go on a simple run in their backyard. Teaching in different programs and regularly maintaining a blog also helps keep the passion alive.
“To me, it’s important to get people into the sport. I want more people to be involved in the river culture, to contribute to, and see rivers as places to visit and places of interest. Plus, very selfishly, they are other people I can paddle with.”
I wouldn’t call him selfish. Dave has made his mark and a significant contribution to getting people outdoors and keeping the paddling stoke high on Vancouver Island, yet, he still sees the sport has having given him more than he ever hoped for.
“I think kayaking is an amazing sport for myself. On top of the sport, meeting and interacting with all these people has helped improve my confidence. Working through situations on the river and being able to feel confident has been good for work, teaching, and in relationships. It provides a good balance to build confidence and gives you breathing space. Kayaking has helped me tremendously in life.”
I still don’t know how it goes, if you love it for what it gives you or if gives you so much because you love it and make the most of it, but Dave’s story taught me what a true passion is and how it can drive your life in the best of ways. I wish Dave what he wants the most, to still be able to paddle for a long long time!