Senior Sam Scherff continues Journey as a Competitive Whitewater Athlete


Credit to Photo Submitted

Senior Sam Scherff kayaks down the Little River in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee. Sam has kayaked on rapids across the U.S., ranging from Colorado to Georgia.

By ColIn St. Aubin, North Star Reporter

Kayaking is one of the many activities to do on a beach vacation in the Bahamas on the calm and open water, but for senior Sam Scherff it is a whole lot different than a paddle, a boat and a large body of still water.

Sam is a whitewater kayaker, which is significantly different than leisure kayaking.  He kayaks along various rapids in the Eastern United States, and seven years ago, his hobby began as just that: a hobby.

“It started as something fun because my entire family does it,” Sam said. “I mean, we’re all extremely competitive, so that definitely prepared me for the world of kayaking.”

Sam’s father, Bill Scherff, introduced him to the sport, hoping that Sam would find a love for the sport that Bill had been participating in for years. Bill took Sam on kayaking trips any chance he got when he was younger, in hopes that Sam would thoroughly enjoy kayaking at all levels.

“My favorite time was a four day trip we took to the Green River in Colorado,” Bill said. “It was just a memorable experience as a father to paddle with my son.”

As he grew older, Sam started to become more and more involved with the Missouri Whitewater Association (MWA), kayaking in places like Georgia and Kentucky. With the assistance of his father, Sam has been able to improve beyond his father’s expectations.

“I tried not to push him too hard, too fast,” Bill said. “He has gained confidence and experience after many years on the water. He has grown into a stable and solid paddler.”

With the guidance of his father and fellow kayakers from the MWA, Sam has become a more seasoned paddler. He has not only gained experience, but he has grown to be able to push through the challenging waters.

“If there’s a tough route or an easy route, I now always choose the more difficult route,” Sam said. “It’s honestly a lot more exhilarating that way.”

Sam’s voyages have not always been smooth sailing, however. He has been the victim of flips, which he describes as being some of the most adrenaline-filled parts of kayaking.

“It’s intense,” Sam said. “There are bubbles in your face. You could hit a rock, which is terrifying to think about. It can get kind of scary when you go below the water.”

Aside from the flips and the bubbles, Sam has had some pretty major success in his kayaking career. Sam competed in an event called the Slalom. In this event, kayakers paddle in between hanging gates on the rapid. Despite being new to this type of kayaking, Sam won the 17 and under Midwest Slalom Championships, which he modestly downplays as an enjoyable experience.

“I only entered because I thought it sounded fun,” Sam said. “I honestly didn’t consider it a big deal. It was really just an opportunity to compete while doing something I enjoyed.”

Sam’s involvement in kayaking is not about the awards he’s won, the places he’s traveled or the people he’s met. To him, it is ultimately about the enjoyment of the sport and the feeling it gives him to fly down those rapids.

“There’s something beautifully dangerous about taking your life into your own hands,” Sam said. “There’s nothing like it.”