Offbeat Interview Series with Kyle
Kyle ‘Smitty’ Smith
Born and raised in Twin Falls, Idaho, Kyle was lucky enough to go down the Middle Fork of the Salmon when he was 16, for his buddies high school graduation trip. His craft for the trip was a duckie (IK) with a canoe paddle. A day or two into the trip, he was completely hooked to life on the river. That summer he learned how to roll a kayak. After his first year in college, he got a summer job guiding on the Kern River in California. After 4 summers on the Kern, his soul was called back to the rivers of Idaho. Kyle has been working and playing on the rivers of Idaho, for the past 6 years.
2018 finds Kyle finishing up nursing school at the Northeastern University in Boston, MA. To quell his need to be on the river as much as he used to be, he has adopted a cross bike as a commuter, through the streets of Boston. As he says “It’s like running the North Fork of the Payette River, only the holes are moving targets filled with angry people.” Kyle is looking forward to migrating back to the rivers of Idaho and the northwest, at some point in the future. In his free time, Kyle likes to kayak new rivers, go mountain biking, travel and generally explore this great wide world. Occasionally you’ll find Kyle participating in a kayak race (of any sort) and you will always find him acting as an NRS Ambassador. You can read his blogs here: NRS Community
If you could be a river superhero, what would you be? I would be able to breathe underwater because I love snorkeling and even scuba diving in the river! I would be able to swim up and down rapids lickity split and clean up trash and fun souvenirs dropped by rafters, kayakers and fishermen throughout the past century. I’d also be incredibly articulate and persuasive so that I could lobby our congressmen to protect all of our rivers and ecosystems within them when I wasn’t on the river.
What is your favorite dress up theme? I love the “anything but clothes theme”. You can wear anything to the party besides clothes. I usually go for some vegetation incorporated with a diaper- style life jacket…depends on how risque the group is feeling. Beer boxes and duct tape also make for some great options.
What is your ‘go to’ crazy hat night creation? The river Willows + a leatherman are my go-to jam when I’m making a hat. A little whizzy-LED-light magic brings it all together.
What brought you to Canyons? I love kayaking and getting to use my paddling skills to share the passion of whitewater with people. Getting to teach people to paddle and be someone that they rely on and trust in those moments of exploration puts a huge smile on my face…also… the ‘Stacey cakes’ and ‘spicy sassy trail mix’ might have had something to do with it. AMAZING!
How many years have you worked here? I have worked on the Middle Fork for 6 years now! I love it and often spend time ‘private boating’ as well as ‘guiding’ there.
What is your favorite thing about Canyons? The family is the best part! Everyone is so amazing and caring towards one another and our guests. We work together as guides and guests, to give everyone an experience that we, as a society, tend to be disconnected from. The cuddle puddles are an added bonus.
If you could describe Canyons in 3 words? Team Cuddle Puddle
When you hear the word Idaho, what comes to mind? Free flowing rivers, massive mountain ranges, getting lost in order to get found.
What are your top three favorite camps? Sooooo hard to choose. (In no particular order) Sun Flower (Obviously for the hot spring). Pistola (how many hours have I spent swimming below one of the MF’s most iconic rapids? Too many to count. One word…Hypothermia). I was camped at the confluence of Big Creek. Amazing hiking access to the top of Water Fall Creek. Go check it out up there if you haven’t.
Your favorite hike? Either Waterfall creek or a Johnson Point hot lap.
Top three favorite rapids?
- 1. Welcome to the MF (first bend). When driving any craft, especially a sweep boat, this is the first drop out of the gates. I’m always nervous to make that first move. It’s so exciting!
- 2. Hells Half Mile. One of the longest rapids, this can be one of the most dynamic on the river…depending on how your line goes 🙂
- 3.Sevy’s/ Redside- High water or low, this rapid can leave you hole-surfing in a kayak or wrap a giant sweep boat around a rock. Respect.
Currently, what is your nemesis rapid? Lower sulfur slide…. uuuuggggghhhh. Is there even a line that doesn’t include pushing the sweep boat?!?!
What river do you want to run that you haven’t yet? Too many to choose. The Zambezi in Africa, The Green narrows in WV, The BashKaus in Russia.
What do you consider a ‘real’ job? I don’t even like to think about it. Everyone has work that makes them happy and work that can be found on the other end of the spectrum. I tend to stick to the joyful end of the spectrum.
If you could only have one kayak in your quiver, what would it be and why? Are you seriously going to make me choose between my children?! Ugh. The Remix 79. It can do it all. It’s fast. Surfs incredibly well on glassy big waves. Packs all my overnight gear away for long overnight trips. Let’s me fall off of waterfalls if I’m so inclined, or just paddle flat water efficiently. Timeless.
What is your favorite thing to cook on the river? Salmon…but I have been known to undercook it. Nobody likes overcooked Salmon. Or latkes… 4th generation Idahoan potato passion.
If you could take a musician or band down the river today, who would it be? Zepplin. But they would have to ride with me on the sweep boat and Jam out the whole time as we routed through the upper section at 4+ feet. Robert Plant could be my swamper any day.
What is your most memorable swim in a river? I got ejected 10 feet into the air once from the back of a paddle raft, did a backflip in the air, and broke my fall on a metal D-ring with my face… shortly before swimming through the rest of a class IV rapid trying to catch up to my runaway paddle crew. “Had your face always looked like THAT Kyle”- guide quote from that day.
What is one of your river rituals or superstitions? It’s not superstitious to ONLY rig your kayak on the shuttle vehicle facing forward. How else is it going to remember which direction to go?
What is your most valued non-river related item that you bring with you on every trip? Ummmm… I think of everything as river-related, but probably my pillow. A good night’s sleep is key to living a happy life and making the most out of every day. I’m happy to spare the extra pair of underwear in order to bring my full sized pillow 🙂
What is your favorite groover spot? Whitey Cox beach during a dusk groove.