river goddesses of wnc, juliet

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Here is another one of the river goddesses featured in the September issue of WNC Magazine, Juliet Jacobsen Kastorff.
Originally from Dallas, TX, Juliet fell into the hub of Washington, DC boaters who paddled the Potomac. At the time she was being a proper Washington workaholic: studying for a Masters at Johns Hopkins University and concurrently working as a waitress at the famous blues and jazz venue, Blues Alley and as a Program Coordinator for the nonprofit American Society for Microbiology. “The CIA had lots of paddlers. No chatting, though,” she said. “When I started paddling, it was the first time I did anything I wanted to be great at.” Eventually she wandered down to the Western North Carolina network of rivers, and the boating mecca of NOC. “I realized pretty quickly it was time for a career change. I was working on my Master’s to teach English. I decided it was time for me to see what it was like to live here. Instead of going to school and working two jobs, I would continue my Master’s at Western Carolina University and wait tables here at NOC.” Along the way, she met Ken Kastorff, who was developing a great reputation as one of the area’s best kayak instructors. “Ken was one of the most amazing instructors I’d ever seen. I said to him we should start a company. It was a time when IBM was stumbling. And Dell was coming up..” And, while she did start a career teaching English, she quickly discovered that the politics of the academic world didn’t fit with her new life. So, after kayaking on the Gauley River in WV, then Costa Rica, Chile on the biggest rapids she’d ever seen, and shadowing the best boaters she could find, she and Ken bought Endless River Adventures in 1993, a company that is now considered one of the country’s best places to learn to kayak. “I learned how to read rivers. I learned how to roll. I learned that rivers weren’t there waiting to beat you up. Ken flat out told me I wasn’t good enough to teach, and I went out and for two years learned how to teach from the best teachers. Now, I get to teach all the time. To this day, I am passionate about teaching. I never want to be the type of person who is afraid to look bad, to get out of my comfort zone. The whole goal is to make somebody better than you.” Juliet and Ken’s company Endless River Adventures also runs whitewater rafting trips and fly fishing adventures. And from Novemebr through the end of February they run kayaking expeditions in Costa Rica and Ecuador.
“Living in the (Nantahala) Gorge, I am part of a community of people who, kayaking is not a hobby, it is who they are,” she said. “It is great to watch families grow up in this environment. On the river you will bond unlike anything else.”

What is your favorite river?
I don’t have a favorite river. It can be the Little Tennessee, the Quijos River In Ecuador, the Ocoee. I just love any river I happen to be on.

Favorite Moment?
With a group of people below a rapid. The challenge, the sense of comraderie, and the satisfaction of having run that rapid.

Favorite music?
I’ve been a Deadhead for a long time. I also love jazz.

Favorite food?
Diet coke

Favorite restaurant?
Any place that serves peanut butter

Any hobbies?
Gardening. I love to play in the dirt.

Insiders Tip to WNC?
Stop and look around.

Who is/are your heroes?
There is not one specific, but teachers are my heroes. I so respect the idea of giving to others what you know.

What principle or motto do you live by?
Except that which you cannot change

Big dreams?
My goal is to celebrate my 85th birthday running Nantahala Falls. And it would be really great if some 28 year-old boy could carry my boat for me.

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