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Meet the Ambassadors, Part Two

This series of introductions begins with one of my favorite paddling days- it was about 10 months into Covid, I had been at home for all of it, and I was closing in on a year without whitewater. I was surely not going to let that happen. I built a sleeping platform for my Subaru with storage below and headed out for a couple of weeks. While chasing the rivers, I had 2 bucket list items to check off on this trip as well- to hike into the Green River Narrows and to take a lesson with H2o Dreams. They have been offering top-notch instruction since 2012, and their values parallel the passion of the Pyranha Ambassador family- you can read more about it here.

I reached out to Lydia Cardinal of H2o Dreams and asked if we could do a private lesson on the upper stretch of the Green River. Lydia was amazing- she sent me an extensive questionnaire and then planned the day accordingly. We even got 200% water that day too! We worked on skills, talked about river experiences, and just shared life. It was something that had been missing for so long, and for those 3.7 miles, it was heaven. Lydia puts so much heart, soul, and dedication into all that she does. She creates an experience that stays with you well past the takeout.

Lydia always speaks about how the common thread throughout the Pyranha brand- designs, people, culture- is fun. The boat designs inspire play and curiosity, asking paddlers to know and understand more of themselves and the river. It goes past the river for Lydia as well, and she says it best in her own words- “The people that are a part of the Pyranha family echo that virtue, bringing a lot of joy and zest to the paddling world. Down to earth, passionate, and curious, I have loved getting to know folks through the Ambassador family as well as those that work with Pyranha directly. Pyranha feels like a group of folks eager not to rest on laurels of how things have always been done in the whitewater world, but instead, to lead with curiosity and joy in how we connect to the river, and- in turn, to know more about ourselves and each other.”

I will close this introduction with a favorite memory that Lydia shared with me as well, because it is so fitting of her dedication to others:

“Recently, I got to watch a student I’d worked with since they started paddling take their first ride on Good Wave in Columbus, GA. It’s a big but friendly wave that can be intimidating for folks new to playboating and higher-volume paddling. Getting to watch this paddler drop in for the first time, feeling the size of the wave behind them and the speed of the water underneath them… after watching their progression over the years culminate to this moment, this is a career highlight for me. They had a few passes, flipped and flushed, and hit a beautiful combat roll in the runout. It was awesome, and getting to see that in person was better than any ride I’ve ever had myself.”

Pyranha Ambassador Andria Davis, with her husband Leland Davis

Another long-time member of the Ambassador family who also calls the Southeast home is Andria Davis. In 1996, Andria started out as a raft guide in the Southeast. Not long after that, she discovered that she could have even more fun in a kayak. After trying out a variety of kayaks, she found ”love at first stern squirt” with the Pyranha InaZone. That was the kayak that allowed her paddling to take off, and she has never looked back. Andria has been with Pyranha ever since then; as she says, “Pyranha kayak designs have a way of allowing the paddler to have an intimate relationship with the river, which is the goal! Play the River!”

Sharing the joy of paddling goes past the river for Andria, she has co-written the well-known “The River Gypsies’ Guide to North America”, which features travel guides, river beta, and photos of almost 300 rivers. Definitely an amazing book to keep close at hand. You can also find Andria featured on NRS’s Duct Tape Diaries, which highlights more of her adventures and paddling stories. Recently, they featured Andria on a series of paddlers and their home runs. It is a beautiful tribute to her home river, The Rocky Broad, you can read all about it here.

Moving up north to Canada, you will find another one of our Ambassadors- Matt Hamilton.  For over 39 years, Matt has paddled all over the world, but calls the Ottawa his home river, the Gauley his favorite river, and Crowe Bridge Wave his favorite play spot. Joining Pyranha as a Team Member and Ambassador in 2004, Matt distinctly remembers being welcomed with open arms into an amazing family of paddlers. He led the North American team for 2 years, and was the first captain of the infamous Pyranha van “Orange B*tch”.

Matt speaks about how “living on the Ottawa River makes you a freestyler”, and he has certainly demonstrated that by being on the Canadian freestyle team since 2000. As Matt speaks to his experience on the team, the common thread that ties all of the Ambassadors together shines through- “I still enjoy competing, but not as much as I enjoy passing that passion on to others. Currently, I sit on the Canoe Kayak Canada Freestyle committee and the International Canoe Federation Freestyle committee. I have been teaching and coaching whitewater since I was in my teens, and I truly love passing the passion of paddling on to others. It has been amazing to be able to represent the best brand of whitewater kayaks on the planet. The Pyranha family has been amazing to work with on and off the water. They make amazing boats to keep the stoke going year after year.”