Student Kayakers Hone Their Skills, on the Potomac and Beyond

Victoria Levi kayaking in whitewater rapids. Photo courtesy of Victoria Levi.

While there is currently no GDS whitewater kayaking team, sophomores Arjun Pathiyal and Victoria Levi nonetheless enjoy participating in their sport outside of school. They spend their afternoons on the Potomac River doing tricks and races on the rapid whitewater. Pathiyal practices every day, with competitions on the weekends, while Levi goes out on the water in her free time. 

While Levi doesn’t compete, she loves spending time on the water most days after school. Levi does the sport more for fun than competition, having kayaked since she was ten years old. When she’s bored, she kayaks mainly on the Potomac at Great Falls and Little Falls. She likes to do tricks on different rapids and standing waves.  

Pathiyal started kayaking in elementary school at Calleva camps, where he learned whitewater kayaking and the basics of his specific discipline, traditional slalom. Competitive slalom racing is like an obstacle course, where athletes weave between flags to get to the end of the race. There are two different types of slalom: extreme and traditional. 

“Traditional is a time trial, so one person is on the course at a time,” Pathiyal said. “Extreme is where four people start on a ramp, and they have a countdown, so everyone starts at the same time.” 

In sixth grade, Pathiyal started to improve by practicing twice a week with a competitive team, the Potomac Whitewater Racing Club (PWRC), during the spring, summer and fall, which he has continued every year since then. Towards the end of middle school, he became a top member of the team. Pathiyal currently competes for PWRC on its teen racing team. 

For the summer of 2021, Pathiyal will be one of four kids competing in the Junior World Championships for Team USA for extreme slalom. He’ll be competing with two other members from PWRC, along with kayakers from all over the country who qualified for the under-18 Team. 

While Pathiyal enjoys racing on the Potomac, he also travels internationally to race.

“The more serious groups, like myself and the older kids who are in high school,” Pathiyal said, “will go to Europe and race in the big races there because they will have like 700 athletes racing against each other.” He said his favorite course in Europe is one in Augsburg, Germany. 

Levi will also be traveling internationally for kayaking in the upcoming months. For the fall semester of the 2021-22 school year, Levi plans to be taking part in a program called World Class Kayak Academy. 

“We’ll just be kayaking all the time in Canada and Chile,” she said.

Even with the turbulent uncertainty of this past year, Levi and Pathiyal have continued to kayak, given the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic. Levi looks forward to her semester abroad doing what she loves: traveling and kayaking. Pathiyal prepares for the Junior World Championships in Ljubljana, Slovenia, this July and looks forward to competing with Team USA. 

Sophie Axelrod ’22