January 2015-Skyler Williams Grand Canyon Reflection
Skyler Williams has spent the last 6 years working with Erik and managing his speaking business, Touch The Top. He started kayaking, at first to train with Erik, but over the last several years, after lots of rolls and several swims has developed his own passion and enjoyment of the sport. He has coordinated and joined expeditions to Mexico, Peru, Idaho, Utah and the Grand Canyon. Skyler served as a guide, safety boater, producer and general ring leader of the No Barriers Grand Canyon Expedition.
It is an understatement to say that the No Barriers Grand Canyon Expedition was one of my favorite adventures ever. However, I don’t think that it is for the obvious reasons. Sure, the sensationalism of two blind guys punching the biggest rapids on probably the most iconic river in America is really amazing. But, deeper for me though is having been a part of such an amazing team, and a project that at it’s core effected the way thousands and hopefully one day millions of people will view the life challenges we all have. For the last 6 years, I have trained with Erik, (learning to kayak myself) as he bounced off rocks, flipped, swam, drained the boat . . . and repeated. It was a brutal process, one that certainly intimidated the heck out of me at times. Kayaking is a tough sport, as much a mental game as a physical battle against the power of water. A friend once said to me, regarding the steep learning curve in kayaking, “it certainly keeps the riff raff out.”
Throughout this process, Erik has talked a lot about living with a No Barriers Mindset. It has a nice, encouraging, inspirational ring to it but for years I have wondered what the No Barriers Mindset means to me, in my life. What I discovered, in the process of learning to kayak, was that for me, a No Barriers life is based on courage. To use the river as a metaphor, we’re all heading down stream and get eddied out, by all sorts of things, some by our choosing, and some not. But to live with No Barriers takes the courage to paddle back out into the current, despite the turbulence and uncertainty that we know lie in the rapids below. I look at a guy like Lonnie, blinded in a hunting accident, and now charging huge rapids, as the embodiment of that courage and the No Barriers Mindset. And, being a part of the No Barriers Grand Canyon Expedition, I was reminded that while we all get to steer our course in life, the courage to leave the relative familiarity and comfort of the eddy is best done with the support and camaraderie of a great team.
The expedition was the trip of a lifetime and 21 days in the Grand Canyon is a privilege that few get. We shivered in the rain; boiled in the sun and scraped the grit off our boats and teeth, but in all we had fun and were a part of something amazing. I hope that more than a few people can use Erik and Lonnie’s example to take on a No Barriers Life that is their own.