Rush Sturges is a freestyle and expedition kayaker with over one hundred first descents worldwide and has been a member of the USA Freestyle team on numerous occasions. Rush kindly agreed to take part in Unsponsored’s Q&A series for 2013. Enjoy.
Tell us a little a bit about your accomplishments in the canoeing/kayaking world.
I guess one of my greatest accomplishments has been maintaining a position in the various aspects of paddling. I try to balance myself between freestyle, racing, extreme, and expedition kayaking. In addition, I’m heavily involved with the film-making component. I’m a really busy person and I work super hard on a lot of different projects, both athletic and creative. So far I feel like I’ve accomplished some cool things, but there’s still a long ways to go.
When and how did you first start paddling?
My parents own and operate a kayak school in Northern California called Otter Bar Lodge. I first started getting into the sport when I was about 10. However, it took a few years before I started to fully enjoy it and get out on a regular basis. By the time I was about 15 I was trying to paddle as much as possible.
What is your current location?
I’m based in White Salmon, Washington. The Little White Salmon is my backyard run.
What scares you the most?
My biggest fear is probably losing a friend on the river or dying myself. It’s something i’m faced with regularly and when you’re running hard whitewater on a consistent basis, scary things happen. Beyond my personal fears, I also fear for the overall future of mankind, climate change, war, starvation. The bigger issues. All that said, you can’t stress too much on these things as stress and fear are not solutions to the problem. I try to maintain a consistently positive outlook.
What was your biggest hurdle in canoeing/kayaking when you started out – finding people to paddle with, nailing the third end, lack of rivers etc?
I was really afraid of kayaking initially. I started out with people who were a lot better than me, and from day one I felt a lot of pressure to be good at the sport. No one is awesome at kayaking from day one, so it took me a while to build up my confidence and courage to push myself on the river. It took me years to overcome.
What has kept you in the sport?
Passion has kept me in the sport more than anything. I love to kayak. Like any job or path in life it has its ups and downs, but overall I love being on the river. If you have that sort of love for something you’ll do anything to make this lifestyle work.
Who is your biggest source of inspiration within the paddling world (and why)?
I’m influenced by my friends the most. I am constantly inspired by what other athletes are doing, and we all seem to fuel the fire and push one another to do new and amazing things. It’s a collective tribe of inspiring people and we all draw from each other’s energy.
Given the choice where would want to paddle and why?
I haven’t invested much time in Asia so I’d really like to do more in places like Tibet, Bhutan, Nepal, and China.
What do you consider to be the biggest accomplishment in the world of canoeing/kayaking to date? Is it the Congo – The Grand Inga Project?
The Congo is one of many major accomplishments in the sport. Tsang Po, Stookesberry’s Africa Expedition, Hendri’s solo mission on Murchison Falls, and many more. It’s but one amongst a multitude of descents that have progressed kayaking. I’m certainly proud of what we did there, but there are still many rivers to run, and many of explorers that came before us.
Could you tell us something we don’t know about the Congo – The Grand Inga Project?
Evan Garcia actually hurt his foot during a late night incident at the bar. It gets played off as a “fall at camp” in the movie, but in reality it was the result of a drunken bender. It was one of the low points in the trip as it would have been really cool to have him on the river with us. It just goes to show, partying is often times the most dangerous thing we do!
How do you get yourself in “the zone” before a competition run or when running a challenging piece of water?
“The Zone” is still something I’m figuring out. Sometimes I put too much pressure on myself before a competition. It’s a balance between being focused and not too stressed out. As I’ve progressed i’ve learned the best attitude is to do your best, and not care about anything else beyond that.
What is your favourite kayak of all time and why?
The Nomad. It’s probably stood the test of time more than any other creek boat in history. After a decade it’s still one of the most popular boats on the market.
What kit are you currently using?
Many Thanks Rush!