Locals: Dricoll Larrow
Photo by Bradly Boner
Driscoll Larrow says his father, Joe Larrow, “first put me in a boat when I was seven or eight.” Now 17, Larrow paddles Class V whitewater, the most difficult on a scale of I to V, and recently finished up his junior year at the World Class Kayak Academy, “a traveling high school for students who want to earn their education while exploring unique rives and cultures around the world.” Larrow spent his first quarter with the academy in eastern Canada. The second quarter was in Costa Rica and the third in Chile. The fourth quarter of the 2019–20 school year was supposed to be in the western U.S., but was cancelled because of Covid-19.
“It was a pretty tough decision to leave winter behind, but this has been a dream school,” says Larrow, who is also an alpine skier. (“I was a pretty big ski racer for six or seven years,” he says.) “I’m really lucky I get to go.” Before starting at the WCKA, Larrow was a student at Jackson Hole Community School. Between mid-April and the start of the school year he would kayak four to five days a week, working summers at Rendezvous River Sports, a local store dedicated to human-powered water sports. “When you’re younger, your parents definitely have an influence and I was lucky my dad got me into kayaking,” he says. “But I’ve been enjoying it for myself for a long time now.”
Q: Why did you pick kayaking over ski racing?
DL: I wouldn’t say I’m a super good ski racer. A lot of the guys I was racing with are going to school for it. The kayaking thing overall I have a little more fun with in a way where I can be a little more individual in the decisions I make.
Q: Do you still paddle with your dad?
DL: He’s starting to move away from paddling, but we paddle maybe once or twice a year.
Q: Who’s the better paddler now?
DL: [No comment.]
Q: To people who don’t paddle whitewater, it looks terrifying. Does big water ever scare you?
DL: If I’m paddling a remote river where, if someone gets hurt there’s really not much you can do, I’m definitely aware of that. But I think you can limit the risks. There is a difference between being nervous and scared. If you’re scared, you should get out. Every year, I’m gaining knowledge and lowering the scare factor. But there are lots of things that can go wrong.
Q: Did you have other kayak teachers besides your dad?
DL: I started in the [Jackson Hole Kayak Club] when I was eleven or twelve. It has five groups of kids. The muskrats are the youngest group. I started as a muskrat.
Q: What do muskrats evolve into?
DL: You’re a beaver after that. At my age, I’m an otter.
Q: Are the other otters a lot of the kids you started with?
DL: I’d say more kids drop out along the way than stick with it. I think they just want to have fun on the water and when they get to a certain level decide they want to do something else. Some kids don’t like being upside down trapped in a kayak.
Q: But you’re fine with it?
DL: Yeah, it’s no problem. Unless there is a rock in the way.
Q: Do you want to make kayaking a
DL: No, definitely not. There are some people that can make a career out of kayaking, but I don’t think I will. I’d like to, but I think I’ll balance kayaking with something else.
—Interview by Lila Edythe