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Water dancer

July 25, 2006|by KYLE LEFLER

The late teen years can be tough for some who are struggling with where they want to go, who they want to be, etc. These questions have innumerable answers, making decisions somewhat difficult.

However, not every teen is questioning what to do next. For 18-year-old Seth Chapelle, of Sharpsburg, the answer is obvious.

"My biggest dream would probably be to win the world championship for C1," said Seth, and he is well on his way.

Seth is a competitive canoe racer; a C1 is the specialized, small, one-person canoe he races on the international kayak circuit.

He began kayaking when he was 8 years old, in a kayak style called Dancer XS. His parents, Sheila and Pete Chapelle, both kayakers themselves, got him started.

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"When I started, I was sort of scared of it," Seth said. "I didn't like being locked in (the boat)."

After giving up on kayaking for a few years, he started to paddle a C1. The operator kneels in a C1 and uses a one-bladed paddle to control. It is similar to a kayak in that the operator is skirted into the enclosed boat. Since Seth's parents weren't "C1ers," he taught himself. His talent quickly developed as he practiced more and more on increasingly more difficult water.

Seth is now an established member of the national C1 community. He was crowned the national C1 champion in June. Seth is also a member of the U.S. Freestyle Kayak Team and went to the 2005 World Championships. A freestyle competition is when the boaters perform a series of tricks, and are judged on their performance. Such tricks include loops, 360s and complex rolls.

Staying in shape for these events requires intense physical training and a large time commitment. Seth stays in shape by running and working out in a gym, as well as boating as often as possible.

"I try to paddle as many different types of holes and waves as possible, to get a feel for each unique situation," he said.

Seth and members of his family have taken their boats to kayaking destinations around the world, including Austria, Ecuador, New Zealand, Australia and Africa.

"The Zambezi River in Zambia is probably my favorite, because it's so unique," he said.

For Seth, there's more to boating than the thrill of white water.

"I just love being in my boat," he said. "When I get in, it's like my second body. It responds to whatever I do."

Seth and his seven siblings are homeschooled. Aside from paddling boats, Seth plays drums with his alt-rock band, The Aisling, and enjoys skiing and snowboarding.

"I like basically anything outdoors," he said. "I love to try new things even if I'm not too good at them."

As our interview concluded, Seth gazed out the window at heavy rain.

"I'm totally psyched for the rain," he said. "My friends and I are headed out tonight to paddle the New River in West Virginia."

Spoken like a true kayaker. Obviously, his success has not gone to his head.

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