By Janine Frank
Your average 17-year-old spends most of his free time hanging out with friends, obsessing about his love life, and begging mom and dad for keys to the car.
Galen Volckhausen is not your average 17-year-old. Sure, he's into the usual teenager stuff, but he's also a world-class whitewater kayaker. Instead of exploring his newfound young adult freedoms behind the wheel of a car, Galen spends his days in the cockpit of a much smaller vehicle, navigating his way down the world's mightiest rivers.
Galen, nicknamed The Big Water Bandit, has always heard the call of the river. He grew up in Ithaca, New York, but will tell you that his hometown is wherever the good water is. He began kayaking at age 3 and kept at it purely because of his enjoyment of the sport and for the challenges it presents.
He now attends a kayaking high school called New River Academy that takes him to far-flung destinations for training. This year they've traveled to Canada, Chile and much of the southeastern U.S. Galen does his studies in the morning and spends his afternoons on the water.
Fitness is important to Galen to help him achieve his goal of becoming a world champion. In addition to kayaking, Galen keeps fit by running, “creeking” and practicing yoga. Creeking is a form of whitewater training that involves paddling down steep creeks and waterfalls. But it requires hiking up to the top first with a 50 lb. boat on your back. Some days, Galen will do five or more miles of this type of hiking. Afterward, he uses yoga to realign his body and stretch sore muscles.
Maintaining this level of activity is challenging and can only happen by feeding the body properly. Galen says he starts every day with a bottle of Cheribundi. He says the tart cherry juice gives him an energy boost that helps power him through his daily activities. Even though he admits that kayaking will leave his body battered and sore at the end of a long day, he says Cheribundi helps minimize his soreness and shortens his recovery time.
Galen's immediate plans are to spend the summer in the Northwestern U.S. competing in a couple of races and then heading up to the Ottawa River in Canada where he will work as a video boater, videotaping rafting trips. During that time, he will also be training for the World Cup that takes place this fall in the Southeastern U.S.
Galen keeps a positive attitude throughout all the challenges and stresses of his atypical teenage lifestyle by realizing that even when you're living the “dream life” there will still be bad days. He says that as long as he's grateful for everything that comes his way, he will stay happy.
Cheribundi wishes Galen well in all his adventures this summer and beyond. Keep sipping and keep paddling!
Janine Frank lives in Lafayette, Colorado with her husband, two sons and golden retriever. She writes about fitness, natural products and the great outdoors.