BUFORD - After seven days of paddling 92 miles on the Coosawattee and Oostanaula rivers, the Hosea family insists they are still not pros at kayaking.
"Definitely not," 8-year-old Isabella Hosea said.
"We're better than we were," her dad, David Hosea, added.
Buford residents David, Laurie, Landon and Isabella Hosea, all novice kayakers, spent a week this summer participating in Paddle Georgia 2009, an annual weeklong canoe and kayak trip hosted by the Georgia River Network, a nonprofit that promotes protection and restoration of the state's rivers.
Laurie Hosea's mother, Cumming resident Laura Hayes, an avid kayaker who has participated in Paddle Georgia for the past four years, encouraged the family to take the trip.
"We wanted something we could do with our family that got us away from home, away from electronics and cell phones, and something physical," Laurie Hosea said.
The family considered Bicycle Ride Across Georgia, a similar weeklong trip in which participants bike across the state, before opting for Paddle Georgia. The Hoseas launched their borrowed kayaks - a double kayak they called Lowrider and two single kayaks named Blue Sickle and Dragonfly - in Ellijay on June 20 with about 300 other Paddle Georgia participants making the weeklong trip to downtown Rome.
The family spent between three to seven hours on the water each day, traveling as many as 17 miles. One day was spent kayaking across a lake.
"If you're on a river and you're not paddling, you still get there," David said. "If you're on a lake and you don't paddle you just sit there. As a matter of fact, you might even go the other way if the wind is blowing.
"The lake day was a tough day for us because these guys got tuckered out," David said, gesturing to Landon and Isabella. "So we strapped the two singles to the double and they were in the singles and Laurie and I (were paddling)."
"We huffed it miles," Laurie said, sighing.
"That was the toughest day, for sure," David added.
And what should have been a 7.5-mile trip across Carters Lake in north Georgia turned into about a 9.5-mile paddle for the Hoseas, who went the wrong direction on the water and had to double back.
"When we were pulling the kids, they giggled and laughed, played games," Laurie said.
"While we were about to die," David laughed.
The next five days were spent on the river.
"Very smooth and very easy, relatively speaking," David said.
The Hoseas opted for a meal plan during their trip in which all their meals - breakfast, lunch and dinner - were provided. While their days were spent mostly on the water, their nights were filled with events and activities planned by Paddle Georgia, including a block party in Ellijay the first night of the trip, a talent show, contra dancing and a concert. The Hoseas spent the rest of the nights sleeping in school gyms, where they were able to take advantage of locker room showers. Their overnight luggage, including air mattresses, was carried on trucks to each school, which left them only having to carry a single dry bag each day on the river. The bag held food and drinks, extra ropes, a First Aid kit, ponchos, sunblock and bug spray.
"We went through a ton of sunblock," David said.
But the Hoseas didn't spend the entire trip each day in their kayaks.
"We got out of the boat and cooled off, sprayed the water guns and stuff," said Landon, who, at 11, was the youngest solo kayaker on the trip.
Paddle Georgia participants also had the opportunity to take tours each day. The Hoseas toured a 200-acre organic farm.
Staying in the kayaks even while traveling down the river wasn't always an option.
"He had tons of experience with flipping," Isabella said, pointing to her dad, who piloted the Blue Sickle
"I flipped more than anybody," David laughed. "(The single kayaks were) tippy. If you lean the wrong way, they'll tip over."
When Isabella had the opportunity to climb into a single kayak, she asked for the blue one, the one that flipped.
"She thought that they were different," Laurie said.
"I told her, 'It doesn't have anything to do with the kayak,'" David said. "'It has more to do with your daddy.'"
The Hoseas said Paddle Georgia is definitely something they think they will participate in again, as the trip route changes every year. The family also came away from the trip with what might be useful advice.
"If I was going to give advice to anybody to go on the trip, I would say bring earplugs," David said.
"A lot of people snored," his wife explained. "We could've won $100,000 easy. We'd just go up and videotape all the snoring people."