Growing up in North Bend, Wash., J.T. Hartman ’19 spent time in and around rivers, but not paddling them. That changed when he was 12 and a family friend took him on a six-day rafting trip on Oregon’s Rogue River.
“From the second we pushed off the shore, I just needed more and more,” he says. “It was almost a visceral need to be out on the water. It just felt like nothing else.”
WEEKENDS ARE FOR WATER J.T. Hartman ’19 has a day job—and a serious weekend pursuit. Find Hartman on Instagram: @jt_hartman.
Since getting his degree in exercise science at Puget Sound, Hartman has channeled that desire into whitewater kayaking, a passion fueling just about every off day from his “regular job” as a medical assistant in Bend, Ore.—where a four-day, 10-hour-day workweek allows long weekends to paddle some of the most savage rapids around.
In 2019, it also led to an unexpected top- 50 finish (of about 160 competitors) in the North Fork Championship, considered the Super Bowl of whitewater events. It annually draws an elite international field to race a famously explosive section of Idaho’s Payette River. Hartman’s finish, in his first championships, landed him on corporate sponsor Jackson Kayaks’ regional team, where he gets discounted gear and space to blog about his kayak travel adventures, which are mostly self-funded.
Hartman, 24, attributes most of his paddling knowledge to Puget Sound’s kayak club. “It’s one of the reasons I went there,” he says. Coach Clay Ross ’09 “has shaped me into both the paddler and the person I am today. He never doesn’t have a tip for you.”
Hartman’s exploits have included a Mexico group trip with one river section so remote it required a 150-foot rappel from a tree, with his kayak dangling from a rope below him. Attending nursing school in the future will limit his kayak time. But not for long—the whitewater allure is too great.
“There’s this sense of complete immersion. The second you launch into the river, you are 100% focused on whatever is lying right in front of you.”