“For the past several years, John has practically served as a human pipeline to our race through his kayak instruction classes,” said David Lee Simmons, communications director for event organizer Chattahoochee Riverkeeper.
“I’ll never forget interviewing several of the younger paddlers during the launch for the 2011 Back to the Chatt, and almost to a person they had just started paddling within the first year and they’d learned how to paddle by John Miller.”
A recent transplant to the city from Gwinnett County, Miller calls the move “one of the best things I’ve ever done.” Not only is he closer to some of his family, he’s only five minutes from the Chattahoochee.
Miller began kayaking in late 2004, after his son bought a home in Martins Landing and the two men spent time together watching paddlers on the nearby river. Miller’s enthusiasm for the sport grew exponentially and he signed up for the first Paddle Georgia trip in 2005.
“After living in the boat for a week, I fell in love with it,” he said with a laugh.
He started leading other paddlers on river trips, but didn’t get certified as an instructor until 2007.
“Up until then I thought I knew what I was doing, but I soon learned otherwise,” he said. “The fact that I hadn’t killed myself at it yet was only a happy accident.”
In his first year of teaching kayak skills, Miller had no more than 10 students. By last year that number had ballooned to 160, and he estimates that overall, he’s introduced close to 700 people to kayaking. He teaches through www.kayakclassesga.com.
“So often we pitch the environmental reasons for the health of the river, but here John is helping groom a whole new generation of paddlers who appreciate the recreational importance of the Chattahoochee. I don’t know where we’d be without him,” Simmons said.
Miller estimated he will have a group of about 40 paddlers with him for the Back to the Chattahoochee River Race and Festival.
“I’m not competing. I’ll just be there for fun. You’ll see a lot of people floating in everything from canoes to rafts to tubes,” he said.
Co-sponsored by the National Park Service and the city of Roswell, the event begins at 9 a.m. at Garrard Landing Park on Holcomb Bridge Road in Roswell and includes competitive and recreational categories for kayaks, canoes and stand up paddle boards.
Advanced registration can be done until June 10 for the fee of $40 for solo boats and $60 for tandem boats. After that date, onsite registration costs are $50 for solo and $70 for tandem boats and will be available based on capacity.
All registered paddlers will receive a gift bag, a race T-shirt, a boxed lunch, and a one-year membership in Chattahoochee Riverkeeper.
For information, go to www.chatthoocherr.org.