A strong advocate and influence behind the U.S. National Whitewater Center (USNWC) from the time of its inception, Cooper Lambla whiles away his days as a raft guide and trainer — that is, when hes not hazarding the rivers of six continents. Cooper Lambla is one of Charlottes premier adventurers, an expert kayaker instrumental in bringing adventure to the city.
At 12, Coop paddled the Nantahala River in Western North Carolina, and he hasn’t looked upstream since. After tours along the west coast of New Zealand and through the southern Alps, his involvement in international kayaking evolved from hobby to lifestyle. Since these early adventures, Cooper Lambla has paddled in over 20 countries. With the Alps behind him, the Himalayas were the logical next endeavor. The Andes have shown him most of western South America, and though the starkly different rivers of central Asia and Indonesia have invited him to their respective corners of the world, Coop’s thirst remains unquenched. North America’s beauty is not lost on him, either: ”Sometimes I wonder why I ever travel so far away,” Coop muses, ”when I come from such an amazing state, country, and continent that I still havent fully explored.” The 25-day commitment presented by the Colorado, in particular, is one he savors. Sure, its dangerous, but he endangers himself for himself. He will likely never stop paddling the world because he wants to see it in a way that brings him enjoyment. “If you don’t enjoy what youre doing,” he ponders, ”then why do it?”
When the familiar is replaced by the unknown, all you can see is opportunity.
So why, when there is such an incredible world of waters waiting to be tested, does Cooper Lambla ever return to his hometown? He comes back to spread the gospel, of course! Coop believes that the shared experience is the best experience, and the USNWC was built on this philosophy. He has served this non-profit organization in almost every way imaginable, from construction and guidance to bartending and marketing. His most recent sermon has arrived in the form of a short film, EXPLORE. Chapter 1, a stirring tribute to the outdoors and the kind of carnal, life-nourishing experiences which can only be found there. Co-directed by Lambla and fellow kayaker Tyler Allyn, the film follows the two and a handful of friends down the Zambezi and White Nile Rivers. Their journey through Zambia, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda isn’t all rocks and water, though: The rapids and the breathtaking African sunsets are the backdrop for images of other peoples, other worlds. The filmmakers want to show us how the outdoors can serve not just as an excursion here or a trip to there, but as an entire life of exploration. Speaking directly to his audience, Coop narrates, “When the familiar is replaced by the unknown, all you can see is opportunity.”
The EXPLORE. series’ theme of untapped opportunity is, unsurprisingly, the drive that makes Cooper Lambla the restless, supportive soul he is. His tenure at the USNWC stems from his eagerness to introduce others to that opportunity. On his origins, Coop reflects, “I had no idea how large of an impact rivers would have on my life, or where they would take me.” Cooper Lambla’s dream is for that impact to resonate, to take the rest of us somewhere new.
For a bit more info: www.usnwc.com