Tahoe kids are known for being pretty hardcore. As an avid kayaker, Chloe Tippett has savored more action and adventure than most people, navigating world-class whitewater such as the Grand Canyon by herself. Even more remarkable, she’s a mere 13 years old.
“I started going on the river at 3 with my parents because they [raft] guided,” Chloe recently told Moonshine Ink. “I started kayaking when I was 6. Then when I was 10, I really got into it. I got my roll and just started going everywhere to kayak.”
She “got her roll” meaning she learned how to roll her kayak upright from an upside-down position, something that apparently came naturally for Chloe but was perfected through many hours dedicated to practicing rolling her boat in the Truckee-Donner Recreation and Park District Community Swimming Pool. She would often go to the pool’s open roll sessions and “do like a hundred rolls a night,” said her dad, Aaron Tippett.
“She’s always had something that you only very rarely see and that’s a comfort level upside down while staying in the boat. She can just stay there and be comfortable there and then try to figure out which side to get to and then come up and roll up,” Aaron told Moonshine. “Most people don’t have that naturally. Most people, when they roll over, they panic … they don’t know where they are. They panic. Chloe never had that fear.”
Aside from a natural connection to the water, her comfort level comes from exposure at an early age. In fact, Chloe was only a year old the first time she got into a flat-water kayak.
“Even if she’s not in her kayak, when she’s just swimming, she’s just always in water,” Aaron said.
To date, kayaking has taken Chloe on aquatic adventures throughout California, to other states like Texas and Oklahoma, and to countries like Canada and Chile. Last October, her family bought a tiny house in Coloma, where they spend most of the summer, affording her the ability to get out on the American River pretty much every single day. Just this past winter, she kayaked Chile’s Futaleufú River — one of the top whitewater destinations in the world — through the guidance of Bio Bio Expeditions, owned by Truckee locals Marc Goddard and Laurence Alvarez-Roos. Marc just so happens to be the father of Chloe’s kayaking buddy and Creekside Charter School classmate Quinn Goddard.
Bio Bio specializes in bringing adventure seekers to some of the most remote areas of the world, including the Patagonia region shared by Chile and Argentina through which flows the Futaleufú. Aside from some amazing whitewater experiences, the trip was even more memorable for Chloe because she got to hang with Nouria Newman, a French athlete who is arguably the best female kayaker in the world.
A friend who’d arrived in Chile before Aaron and Chloe had told Nouria that Chloe, who is also of French descent and fluent in the language, was coming in the next day. A mere hour after Chloe arrived at camp, Nouria had her out on the river.
“She just happened to be in camp that couple of days,” Aaron said. “We just came walking in and she just took Chloe under her wing and took off.”
The more you do something, the more natural it becomes, so getting out on the water every single day is Chloe’s goal. In fact, the only time she wasn’t on the water this past summer was when she was visiting her 96-year-old great-grandmother for a few weeks in France. When she got back in town, Chloe was right back at her family’s summer place in Coloma, counting the days until she was heading to Ottawa, Canada to partake in OKS Keeners’ kayak camp.
She would continue to hone her whitewater skills during the three-week camp while also learning first aid and swift water rescue techniques. “It teaches you how to be safe on the river and to not get into bad situations,” Chloe said of the training, although more importantly, said Aaron, “It really teaches how to get out of bad situations.”
While most of her time on the river is for recreation, Chloe does sometimes kayak on a competitive level, specifically in the slalom category. For this discipline, kayakers are required to navigate gates — defined by suspended tubes — in a certain order.
“If they’re green you go down them and if they’re red, you go up them,” said Chole, making it sound rather effortless. By going up the gates, the kayakers use the circular current of an eddy to go back up the river and through the gate. The hardest part, she said, is “turning around the gate the fastest you can.” Hitting a gate results in a penalty of three seconds. Should a competitor miss a gate entirely, he or she can go back up to get it provided the following gate has not already been gone through or else face a 50 to 60-second penalty.
Chloe admitted that she does get scared sometimes, like in 2018 when she her family scored a last-minute permit in the cancellation lottery to raft the Grand Canyon. The trip brought her face-to-face, in a measly 7-and-a-half-foot plastic kayak, with Lava Falls Rapid, one of the canyon’s biggest and a Class V on the standard scale. But for Chloe, who was 11 years old at the time, fear came only in anticipation.
“I don’t usually get scared when I’m going out on a rapid, I usually get scared when I’m scouting it,” she said. “When I push off, I get nervous. [Once I’m on the water] I don’t really get scared … I just focus on the rapid.”
With achievements like the Grand Canyon and the Futaleufú already under her belt, Chloe isn’t quite sure where the river of life will take her. By the time she reaches high school, she hopes to be able to spend at least a semester with a school called World Class Academy, which travels the world embarking on kayaking expeditions.
“If I go there, it will set me up to be a really good kayaker,” she said modestly, as if she isn’t already in that category. But if one thing for the future is certain, she added, “I definitely want to have kayaking in my life as long as I can.”