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Published on August 24, 2021

Bob and Lori Sutton kayaking

A Great Way to Leave Your Phone Behind: Why Avera CEO Enjoys Kayaking

With his helmeted head bouncing off the rocks on the bottom of the Salmon River in Idaho, Avera President and CEO Bob Sutton realized he was caught in the churn of the small waterfall he’d just dropped down in his kayak.

“I was caught in what they call a ‘washing machine’ and I kept popping up only to get pulled back down, over and over,” said Sutton. “That was my first experience in the cockpit of a kayak.”

Sutton sprang forth from that situation, sputtering a bit and certainly a tad embarrassed. It shaded his view on the sport of kayaking – but he got back on the water. Now, a few years later – with his wife, Lori paddling alongside him – he’s developing a passion where once was reluctance.

“I was gun shy for some time, but now, I love it. You can clear your mind when you’re on the water,” he said. “Taking time to get away and enjoy a great, tranquil activity is important. It’s a truly calming pastime, and peaceful times can be elusive in our busy age.”

Advice from Two New Kayakers

Paddling with passion came more naturally for Lori Sutton, and her enjoyment of the sport kept Bob going back to the boat. Now the couple owns a kayak, and might add to the fleet. They’ve learned a few things in the short time they’ve dug into this new pastime.

Paddling gives them:

  • Unique views of the waters of their home state of South Dakota, especially its rivers.
  • Rare chances to see wildlife, including shore birds, eagles, deer and jumping fish.
  • Opportunities to combine exploration, relaxation and exercise all at one time.

“There’s so much water to explore locally as well as across the world,” he said. “Each trip is something new, even if you’re covering a lake you know.”

Sutton said he recommends newcomers try the activity with experienced paddlers, if they can. The fine art of balance in the boat does take some time, he recognized.

He worried less about the type of boat and all the gear than just getting on the water. “Paddle what you feel comfortable using, whether it’s a shorter, wider boat or a longer, more streamlined kayak,” he said. “You’ll only get more comfortable if you practice.”

Beauty of Nature in Scenes Beyond Imagination

The Suttons spent many years in Pierre, SD, where they were often on the river or Lake Oahe. They also spend time on Lake Poinsett and on the river near Chamberlain, SD. But now, just a few inches off the water in kayaks, their shared love of the water is taking another step forward.

“A lot of parts of the state are quiet and worth exploring,” he said. “We’ve had good guidance in our trips, and we learn more about wind, waves and water each trip.”

The peaceful getaway nature of the newer hobby lets the Suttons slip away from the stresses of life, just as they slide gracefully across the surface of lakes and rivers.

“It helps you center yourself and clear your mind, being in beautiful places, moving at a slower pace, with no motor noise or any disturbances,” he said. “I’m really glad I got back into it – and Lori is, too.”

Learn more about how to start your own paddling adventures.

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