Henry Dorfman

Founder, Cincypaddlers

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I’ve been into motorcycles, powerboats, sailboats. With paddleboating, you really feel one with the water. When you are paddling with dolphins or manatees, you’re right there. When an eagle or an osprey is skimming across the water, you’re right there. You paddle under the waterfalls, over the waterfalls, things you can’t do with a sailboat or a motorcycle.

I like paddling the Ohio River for its scale; it’s big. It’s like when you’re paddling Lake Superior, you know you’re on a real lake. I like the variety of what you can see along the Ohio, too—city skylines, rock cliffs, huge barge tows. What I don’t like is encountering the untrained or intoxicated power boaters who present a danger to themselves and others. Or those with straight-through exhaust pipes who should be working out their inadequacy issues where the noise doesn’t impose on others.

I would like to see Cincinnati leverage its riverfront with facilities to launch and store paddlecraft, much like Philadelphia and Boston support rowing. I’d also like to see a whitewater play park there or on the Great Miami near Hamilton. Cities as small as Springfield, Ohio, and South Bend, Indiana, have pulled that off. Why not us?

Women make up 55 percent of Cincypaddlers’s membership. We see women coming out of bad relationships where their self-esteem was kind of beaten down. We teach them a sport that is fraught with accomplishment and self-reliance and it greatly enhances their sense of independence. They get out there and kick butt. It’s easier to teach women. They’ll listen and learn technique. Guys always try to muscle everything. Proof that women are the smarter gender is that you never see women missing fingers.

Illustration by Joel Kimmel.
Originally published in the September 2011 issue.

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