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Amazing Kids! of the Month

Amazing Kids! is proud to highlight the Amazing Kids! of the Month!

Each month, we showcase kids who are accomplishing amazing things.  We hope that by telling their special stories, we will inspire other kids to accomplish their own amazing achievements. 

Amazing Kids! of the Month for October, 2005: 
Amazing Young Kayaker Lauren Burress; Cleveland, Tennessee
Amazing Young Kayaker Lauren Burress, age 9
Amazing Young Kayaker, Lauren Burress, age 9

Quotes of the Month

Sometimes I get scared to do a drop or a certain rapid, but afterwards I feel so good about myself for overcoming my fears, and I always want to do it again because it was so much fun. So, the next time you feel scared or have butterflies in your stomach about something, just push yourself to do it, and you will be so glad you did.

Lauren Burress, age 9
Amazing Young Class 4 Kayaker, team member,and contributing
writer, Team JK

“Our family has always been close, but kayaking is another family in itself. Lauren learns patience, practices safety, and teaches others to respect what Nature has given us.”

Kathleen Burress, Lauren’s mom

Imagine yourself in a one-person kayak, leisurely paddling down a smooth, glassy river. Pretty soon you are going a little faster...and faster...and even faster!  Then, up ahead, bolders!  You safely navigate around them, but just in time: the water around you is getting really choppy!  Up next, a ten-foot drop!   When you get to the edge, the drop seems twice as steep to you!  Before you know it...Whish!  You’ve made it over the top and navigated your way safely to the pool below!

This is the type of thrill that our October Amazing Kid! of the Month, a bold and adventurous 9 year old girl named Lauren Burress, enjoys quite often.  Lauren is an amazing Class IV ("Very Difficult") kayaker and one of the youngest kayakers ever to attempt Class V ("Extremely Difficult") river courses in a kayak. 

Read about the amazing adventures of Lauren below, and who knows?  You may just get inspired to learn more about kayaking and take up the sport yourself!  But before you get started, you'll need to remember one important tip:  Safety first!  As you'll read below, it's important to learn about kayaking from an expert kayaker first, someone who can teach you the important safety rules of kayaking, so you can enjoy a safe and exciting trip down your first river run!

And don't forget, if you, or a young person (or persons!) you know, has an amazing project you are involved in, or a special skill, talent or ability you want to tell the world about, be sure to let Amazing Kids! know about it!  Teachers are invited to nominate their entire classroom and the amazing projects they are working on too!  Simply complete our online nomination form for the Amazing Kid! of the Month award, or email us! 

Table of Contents 

Amazing Young Kayaker Lauren Burress
Safety and River Conservation Come First

Kayaking River Classifications
Related Links  

Amazing Young Kayaker Lauren Burress

Amazing Young Kayaker Lauren Burress, age 9
Amazing 9-year-old Lauren Burress

Nine-year-old Lauren Burress was born in Evansville, Indiana, where she attended a traditional elementary school and began kayaking with her dad at the ripe old age of six!  She fell in love with kayaking from the moment she stepped into her first kayak, and she hasn’t stopped since!

Amazing Young Kayaker Lauren Burress and her dad
Amazing Lauren Burress and her dad
 after a fun day spent kayaking!

Since that time, she has paddled in many states including Tennessee, South Dakota, North Carolina and Colorado. A solid Class 4 kayaker, she has paddled rivers like the Tellico, with a fun 15 foot drop Baby Falls!  Bold and adventurous, with a "can do" postive attitude, amazing Lauren has learned that she has the ability to paddle even some very difficult river runs.  She has paddled some Class 5 creeks like Richland Creek in Tennessee, and loves to play at the Ocoee River in Ocoee Tennessee, where they held the Olympics in 1996. She has even paddled some rivers out west in Colorado on the Arkansas River and Gore Creek.

Lauren on Tellico River

While in Colorado, Lauren competed in the Teva Mountain Games in Vail. When entering the competition, she discovered she was the only child to sign up for the race!  That meant she would have to compete against adults.  She went ahead and entered the race anyway. Much to everyone's surprise, Lauren placed 2nd in the Amateur Contest!

Her family's support for Lauren's continued involvement in kayaking motivated them to move to Cleveland, Tennessee not long ago, so they could be near the Ocoee River, a place where Lauren can continue to improve and realize her amazing kayaking potential.

Lauren on Richland Creek in Tennessee

Lauren is now home-schooled so she has enough time to practice her kayaking skills, which she does on rivers which range from Class 1 ("Easy") to Class 5 ("Extremely Difficult") in their difficulty rating. She is one of the youngest kayakers ever to attempt Class 5 rivers!

Lauren is currently one of the youngest kayakers to be fortunate enough to have sponsors who support her in her kayaking. Her sponsors include: Jackson Kayak, J3 Helmets, Keen Footwear, Snapdragon Skirts, Stohlquist and Werner Paddles.

Her plans for the future are to keep practicing and paddling her favorite rivers and hopefully someday compete in the Olympics. "I want to be a good team player. Kayakers are my extended family,” she says.

Lauren and fellow kayakers from "KidYak"

Her parents' support for her involvedment in kayaking has made all the difference. For parents who are considering getting their own children involved in the sport, the Burress family is quick to offer the many valuable benefits which they attibute to Lauren's experiences with kayaking:

"Lauren learns patience, practices safety and teaches others to respect what Nature has given us. Her confidence level is at an all time high as well."

Lauren and her daddy ready to eat after a hard day kayaking
Lauren and her daddy ready to eat dinner, after a full day of kayaking!

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Safety and River Conservation Come First!

Lauren not only enjoys kayaking in white water, she also loves to do what is called “freestyle playboating,” in which she drops her tiny self and her kayak into “holes” and does freestyle moves like surfing, cartwheeling, enders, bowstalls, and loops.

But as much fun as kayaking and playboating can be, Lauren knows that safety always comes first. In fact, she is always checking to see that, in addition to her own, everyone else’s PFD (personal flotation device) is also fastened correctly and is rated for whitewater, and their helmets are always intact. She is quick to speak up if they are not!

Lauren wants other kids to know that if you follow the safety rules, kayaking can be a lot of fun. She says that “When you run the rapids, it feels like you’re on a roller-coaster ride!”

She also wants kids to know the importance of keeping our rivers and waters clean so she, and all of us, can enjoy them forever. She has been working to get more people involved in river conservation with American Whitewater (, an organization which arranges scheduled releases for rivers like the Ocoee to run whitewater through it, without harming the environment.

Lauren’s motto is: “Paddle hard, don't litter and keep our rivers beautiful.” 

Keep on paddling, Lauren!  We'll be watching for you in our local rivers, and in the Olympics one day soon...

You can see amazing Lauren in action on the Jackson Kayak website at:

Back to Table of Contents

Kayaking River Classifications

Lauren and friend Dane Jackson

Lauren and her friend Dane Jackson

CLASS I: EASY - Waves are small; passages clear. No major obstacles. Fun for everyone

CLASS II: MEDIUM - Rapids of moderate complexity with passages clear. Fun for everyone

CLASS III: DIFFICULT - Longer, more powerful rapids, boaters must maneuver through irregular strong currents,
holes and rocks in the channel. Challenging

CLASS IV: VERY DIFFICULT - Long rapids; powerful waves and dangerous rocks, boiling eddies; powerful and precise maneuvering required. Thrillseekers

CLASS V: EXTREMELY DIFFICULT - Long and violent rapids following each other almost without interruption; riverbed severely obstructed; big drops; violent current; very steep gradient. Experienced Thrillseekers

Important Safety Note:  No one should attempt to kayak any class of river until they have had the proper instruction, safety information and equipment.

Related Links:  Read articles on kayaking written by Lauren, and see some great pictures of Lauren in action!   Click at the top on "Team JK;"  then click on "Lauren Burress" in the left column.

Watch a video of Lauren kayaking in white water! – Click here to find out about safety, conservation and current news
involving whitewater sports throughout the United States. – This website is for a school in Kentucky, affectionately known as
“KidYak”, that teaches kayaking to children of all ages. Lauren helped kids enrolled in the KidYak05 camp for young kayakers like herself to learn about kayaking and basic movements.

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A Special Message from Amazing Kids! for all you kids:

It's no secret...every person has an "amazing-ness" inside of them, just waiting to be discovered.  (Sometimes we just need a little help in finding out what that "amazing-ness" is!) 

If you are doing some amazing things too, we want to hear about it!  Send us your stories about your amazing accomplishments, so we can tell the world just how amazing you are!  We are always looking for new stories.  And don't be shy!  We'd love to hear from you!

Here's an idea you might want to try:


If you know someone who needs a little encouragement, why not tell them what you think is special about them?  Maybe you can be the one to help them uncover their own special talents! 

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