Isaac Levinson might be having the year of his life. The 22-year-old Atlanta-based kayaker is on the U.S. National Slalom team, competing in World Cup events in the two-person canoe category with an eye on the Olympics in 2012. Last year, he finished second in the two biggest Southeastern creek races, the Lord of the Fork and the Green River Narrows Race. He’s been training nonstop for his shot at the Olympics and is in the best shape of his life. This could be his year to take the coveted Green title. BRO talked with Levinson about his chances at the Green this year and what it’s like to be part of a dynamic canoe duo.
You’re on the US National slalom team, but you also compete in creek races. Do you identify with any one form of boating over the other?
No. I’m just trying to do everything at the best level I can. But I will say if I had to pick a favorite race, it would be the Green. I love the atmosphere, the other boaters, and the river itself. I put a lot into that race every year.
Is it tough to switch gears from kayaking solo to paddling a C-2 with a partner?
It’s interesting to take such an individual sport and turn it into a team effort. It’s fun to balance everything that’s involved with paddling with someone else. Somehow, it makes it more exciting. We’re not communiciating as much as you’d think. We’re not talking about every individual stroke. We’re just trying to keep a good feeling inside the boat. It’s a lot more physical than kayaking solo. If one person’s steering, then the other person has to pull harder with his strokes to carry the extra 130 pounds.
Your C-2 partner is from Atlanta and there are quite a few Atlanta boaters on the U.S. team. That’s surprising.
Atlanta has a solid slalom scene. The Chattahoochee is actually good slalom training. It’s just class III, but it’s consistent and convenient. Everyone thinks if you’re a good boater, you’re from North Carolina, but Atlanta has good boaters too.
How does the U.S. stack up against the rest of the world in slalom right now?
This is my first year on the national team, so it’s been interesting to see things play out on the World Cup. The competition level at slalom is so high. It’s the best of the best. We typically have someone finishing in the top 10, but we haven’t had any medals yet. It could happen though.