Freshman physics major Jacob Siegel is ranked second overall in the United States for wildwater kayaking, 29th in the world for classic junior kayaking and 30th in the world for sprint junior kayaking.
“I was motivated to participate in a lot of races,” Siegel said. “I won a couple of smaller races, and did pretty well in the bigger races. I guess it just added up.”
The way the ranking is determined is through a point system, in which points are given based off of how well the kayakers compete in the wildwater races. Siegel competed in the 2015 World Championships along the Nantahala River, in North Carolina.
“In the world championships, you get one run down the classic course, and two runs down the sprint course,” Siegel said. “They take the best time of the two.”
Aside from North Carolina, Siegel has kayaked the waters of West Virginia, Canada and Mexico.
“I get to go to all these unique places in the wilderness, and see all these beautiful sites,” Siegel said. “It’s really amazing.”
According to Siegel, the boats used in championship racing are unstable and go very fast.
“They’re made of carbon and kevlar, as opposed to the boats I would use in Great Falls and Mexico, which are made of plastic,” he said.
Siegel says that while kayaking is known to have a fairly steep learning curve, the best way to improve is by “always pushing yourself to do better.”
“It’s extremely challenging, but extremely rewarding,” Siegel said. “That adrenaline rush of doing something exciting, like going over a really difficult rapid, and the satisfaction of doing it well is what I enjoy the most.”
He also appreciates the friendships he has formed and people he has met along the way.
“I think you bond with people a lot faster when you’re on the river with them for some reason,” Siegel said. “I’ve met some of my very best friends through kayaking, people that I wouldn’t have met otherwise.”