You might think that whitewater kayaking is the sport of choice for a thrill-seeking twenty-something, but Terry Miller just might convince you otherwise. This avid local kayaker might be over the hill, but don’t let that fool you-this guy can rip through rapids.
Miller’s first kayak experience was a side venture during a Salmon River rafting trip. “I got in a little rubber ducky kayak with a guy I didn’t know, and at the sight of a class four rapids, the guy stood up, white-faced, and jumped out,” he says. Miller survived the rapids, and his passion for kayaking has withstood all the whitewater and turbulence he can find. “It’s more of a lifestyle than a hobby,” he says, “everything that my friends and I do is centered around kayaking.”
Miller especially loves to travel with his kayak, and has made kayak trips to Costa Rica, New Zealand, Bhutan and Japan, among others. “Usually when you travel, you end up in tourist traps, but you see a whole different scene when you travel on the rivers,” he says.
He has also served as the president of the Spokane Canoe and Kayak Club. Recently he helped organize the SCKC auction to raise money for First Descents, a kayak camp for young adults who’ve been stuck with cancer. Let’s take a look at the gear that keeps Miller afloat.
BOATS: Exclusively Bliss-stick. He’s the company’s northwest rep, but he’d choose them anyway. “The boats are probably the most comfortable creek boats I’ve ever been in,” he says. “They’re a little heavy, but everything is hand done-I’ve been to the factory, and they make them the old fashioned way.”
PADDLE: Adventure Tech’s ATX Superflex paddle. They don’t make it anymore, Miller hypothesizes, because it was simply too superior.
He also has a bent shaft Lendal spare paddle. It’s a fully adjustable, four-piece paddle for maximum versatility. “It was expensive for something that mostly just sits there, but after watching a friend struggle when he lost his regular paddle on a trip in Chile, I thought it was worth the price.”
HELMET: Surge’s Bonk helmet. “I was drawn to it by the style-it’s the most full coverage of any carbon-fiber helmet.” On one trip, the helmet fell out of his car and was run over by a friend’s Durango. He still wears it.
LIFEJACKET: The Hoodoo by Macpac. “It’s very comfortable,” he says.
SKIRT: Miller mainly uses a skirt by Electric Water, a company based in Australia that makes custom-fit skirts for any make and model of kayak. He also has a skirt by Snap Dragon that he uses for pool paddling.
DRY SUIT: By Kokatat, made with gore-tex. “Their suits last through anything, and the company is a big supporter of (my charity) First Descents, so I tend to get a lot of my gear from them.” Underneath, he wears more Kokatat layers and pieces like the Thick Skin bottoms by Immersion Research. “IR makes really innovative clothing for kayaking,” Miller says, referring to a top he has with heavy, 200-weight fleece around the core and lighter 100-weight fleece on the arms to maximize warmth and performance.
GLOVES: Glacier Gloves. “I have a tolerance for cold water, but not for the wind,” he says, so he gloves up if the chill gets to his hands.
SHOES: With size twelve feet, Miller struggles to find a perfect pair of shoes. He had a pair of FiveTens that he liked, but the company no longer makes them, so mostly he tries to find shoes that won’t lock his feet in the kayak if he tips over.
ELBOW PADS: They’re great for protecting your elbows, and the elbows of your not-so-cheap dry suit, Miller says. His are actually motocross pads, the 2×4 by SixSixOne.
THROWBAG: The Lotus Fling. His utility gear also includes two knives by Benchmade, and, on more out-of-the-way trips, a waterproof headlamp and an emergency kit.
“We’ve had enough stuff happen through our own stupidity or just due to chance to know that if you don’t bring, it, you’re going to pay for it,” Miller says, so if you’re ever down on your luck on a local river, keep an eye out for Miller and his trusty Subaru, which is often stocked with two of just about everything.