Water Works

Kayaking can be a lonely sport, not but here


Brett Heyl is a Vermont native, but he couldn’t be more at home in Charlotte. The twenty-six-year-old professional kayaker moved here in summer 2006 from Washington, D.C., as the U.S. National Whitewater Center was opening. Making him feel even more welcome is the fact that Bank of America is one of his corporate sponsors. But at the moment he's away from his adopted home and is in the Land Down Under.

"I'm down here enjoying the summer weather—their summer is our winter," says Heyl of being in Australia for training. "In the past we didn't have the funding to come here, but recently U.S. Canoe/Kayak has gotten much more support from corporations and sponsors. We were always at a disadvantage to the top countries."

Heyl lives in the Elizabeth neighborhood with two friends, including a kayaker for the Canadian team. And even though he competes in about ten events a year and about half of them are abroad, he says he’s never felt more grounded. "There were years when I was living in D.C. that I'd be out of the country ten months out of the year. But living here and having the whitewater course and my major sponsor here makes it easier to stay at home."

He was scheduled to return from Australia in mid-March, and the Whitewater Slalom U.S. Olympic Trials will be held at the whitewater center April 25-27. "I'm there twice a day every day," he says of the center. "Some days I eat lunch and dinner there."

Heyl was introduced to kayaking as a kid by a friend whose parents were world-class kayakers. He admits that he was afraid of the water at first, but soon he’d dropped his other sports. Kayaking has been his passion ever since.

"It's all about getting to the Olympics in Beijing," he says. "There are two important events leading up to it. One is the trials in Charlotte. If I make the national team there, which is the top three, then there’s a race in Germany over the summer that will decide the Olympic spot."

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