Since its beginning, Last Descents has been teaching Chinese youth the fundamentals of whitewater kayaking. Kayaking is a powerful tool for personal growth, physical development, and building a connection to the natural world. Members of the Beijing kayak club work on fundamentals in a swimming pool, making new friends and gaining confidence in their physical abilities.
Soon they can take these skills to a river, and see the fruits of their hard work in a wilderness environment. They can use their boat to explore the river; paddling towards favorite waves, different channels, or just paddling over to get a closer look at a plant or animal. River trips in wild places give these children the opportunity to understand their own capabilities outside of their element, to explore their own risk management and decision making, and to connect with a slowed down, primal way of thinking that is increasingly rare in their busy lives. We hope to offer them a glimpse of a different lifestyle, and let them engage in different ways of thinking about their own existence on this planet.
Each individual has the opportunity to learn about wild places by paddling through them, but also to learn about themselves by inhabiting these wild places. Each season we are amazed by the personal insights, natural leadership, and environmental observations that come out of our young guests on paddling trips. We have brought Chinese youth paddlers to the Grand Canyon, the Payette River system in Idaho, and the Salween and Daqu Rivers in China. Continuing in kayaking can be a life long pursuit that rewards paddlers with opportunities to travel, see places few others will ever see, and develop a spiritual and physical connection to the natural world.