Tom McEwan - Kayaker

tom mcewan


Sometimes, it's just not your day....

...on the other hand, sometimes it just is.


And when we saw a video interview with Tom McEwan on YouTube we knew we had struck gold - and we weren't wrong.


Tom is a 24-carat example of what life can be like if you keep the fires burning, and we were keen to contact him and find out more about him, and about his kayak school Liquid Adventures.



tom mcewan 1

Tom on Mico

So we did, and here's his story:-


Who are you, what do you do, how old are you?

I am owner and director of a kayak instruction company, I try to kayak as much as I can while still keeping up with business, I am 67 yrs. old.


Tell us about Liquid Adventures, how it started, what it does.

We try to make the sport of kayaking accessible to everyone. We offer a clear path and effective way for a person to learn the sport and progress in their abilities, to enjoy the experience of paddling in white water and being a part of the river, and to development their fitness which goes along with every other part.


When did you start kayaking?

I began paddling in the '60s when I was about 16 yrs old. My sister brought back a Klepper Fold Boat from her year after grad year in Italy.


tom mcewan 2

Tom on Triple Drop

What was the kayak scene like when you started? You said in the YouTube interview that you opened up a lot of new places to kayak in the 60's, tell us about that - has kayaking changed a lot in the intervening years?

Kayaking has changed quite a bit since I began. The boats have improved immensely since the ones we first used, in quality of material, and in design. For us, running the current popular rivers, were explorations in themselves. West Virginia rivers like the New, Gauley, Upper Yough, Upper Blackwater, and the Linville, were all new to us.   


Given that it is physically demanding, do you do any other physical training for it or is the paddling itself enough?

I like to run to keep up my cardiovascular fitness. I occasionally do a weight room workout, interval training style, to keep muscle strength in balance.


Does confidence in your physicality help to control the nerves when approaching a difficult passage - a rapid or high waterfall, for example?

When I scout fully and think about what I am doing before I do it, I usually succeed well.  It is more difficult to perform well on a guess as to the proper line. It's always to continually test yourself against the river by playing in difficult places that have some consequences. When you make a mistake and get beat up a little, it keeps you in a humble attitude which is essential for paddling.

tom mcewan 4

Last drop on El Salto

Would you say that you're you still learning/improving your kayaking? In what ways?

Yes, learning and improving are always essential. Just in the forward stroke there are many variables, and I like to understand how the entire body can be employed to exert power into the stroke, or how to keep the boat on line in chaotic waters.


What drives you to continue?

I like to be a resource for others to learn from at whatever level. I like to learn by doing, and then be able to pass on to others a clear understanding. To be a good teacher, one first must be a good student, I believe.


Would you say that the thrills and spills you experience when kayaking influence your outlook and attitude to life in general? As we get older, we have found for ourselves (and read the same about others) that involvement in extreme sport helps with keeping you sharp and alert, and generally feeling "vital"? Do you find this?

Yes, I would agree with the sense of vitality and alertness that you get from total immersion in kayaking. Getting worked a little makes you feel fully awakened in every part of your body.


tom mcewan 5

Tom on Micos, again

Were you always interested in sports / fitness? Did you do any other sports / activities?

I was for many years in high school and college a competitive wrestler.  I made a change in life when I decided that it would be better to be in the outdoors than in a sweaty indoor gym.


Anything else you'd like to say not covered by the questions?

Kayaking is the most interesting sport to teach for someone who likes people. The variety of people and the varied responses to their experience of kayaking is very interesting to observe.  It is said that "It is not the size of the man (or woman) in the fight (that counts), but the size of the fight in the man (or woman)."  This quote is played out in many ways for students of white water kayaking.  It is what is inside of people that makes the difference.  Everyone has fears, but how do they cope with their fears, and do they overcome or are they overcome?  Often the most athletic persons are surprised to find that boat handling can not be overcome by force, and the more sensitive of people succeed sooner.


Reading this, we are amazed and inspired by these pictures - not your average 67-year-old by any means. In fact you'd have to say not your average person at all. And if it shows one thing, it's that age really is just a number, a number to be ingored, for as long as you're prepared to go out there and pursue your dreams.