Chev Dixon on Discovering Kayaking in Yonkers and Fostering Inclusion through Information and Representation

Chev Dixon is a leader in New York's kayaking community. One of the first Black Level 4 Open Water Kayak Instructors in the U.S., Chev uses his passion and skill to foster another, more representative generation of kayakers. We talked with Chev about how he fell in love with the sport and the work he's doing now.
Where did you grow up? What brought you to New York?
I was born in Kingston, Jamaica where I spent most of his childhood moving between the city and the quiet country parish, Trelawney. At the age of thirteen, I migrated to the United States of America with my mother and brothers.
Have you always loved the outdoors?
Yes! I have loved the outdoors since I was a child. When I lived in Kingston, I was a regular in the gullies sledding on old school benches, playing marble in the dirt, playing cricket, playing football or climbing mango trees with friends. Whenever the city struggle became too much, I would find myself moving to the country to a more calming and natural lifestyle. There I would participate in trail running with friends, hangouts by the river, hike, farm with family, make slingshots and run boats (Jamaican cookouts).
I read you discovered kayaking in Yonkers. How did that come about? Did you love it immediately?
In 2010, a young man pulled a knife on me during a basketball game. This led my friends and I to change our scenery and hangout by the Hudson River. That was where I got introduced to kayaking at a program that offered the activity to local youth in Yonkers. I fell in love with the sport, became a trainee and volunteered at the free community kayaking program. I was able to develop my skills and eventually became one of the first black Level 4 Open Water Kayak Instructors in the United States through the American Canoe Association (ACA).
What is it about kayaking that speaks to you?
Most things about kayaking speak to me, but one thing for sure is that it is traditionally a survival skill. In addition, kayaking is a unique sport that connects me to nature while providing physical exercise. Kayaking is an avenue to my self discovery. Since I started kayaking my passion for nature has grown and my understanding of the natural world has increased tremendously.
Over the past couple years, as more people have started to explore outdoor spaces, conversations about inclusion and diversity in the outdoors have become more mainstream. There are some well-established barriers, like money, that prevent these spaces from being more diverse. What other barriers do you think people can be more aware of?
Some barriers I see are lack of information on how to gain access, the misinformation that Hudson River is dirty and the lack of representation of BIPoC in outdoor media and throughout the industry.
I was listening to an interview you did, and you were saying that there is a stereotype that kayaking is a white person's sport, that white people can be unwelcoming to other people. Why has it been so important for you to push through that and to become a local leader in the sport?
It has been very important for me to push through the notion that kayaking is a “white people's sport” because it is not. The history of kayaking goes back to Greenland and it was a survival skill for the Inuits. The Inuits were not white. In addition, I have the courage to change the status quo and I believe if I lead by example the youth of my community will follow.
What can people do to make outdoor spaces more inclusive?
People need to educate themselves about others and the benefits of being outdoors. Also, true representation matters. People need to support those who are doing the work to provide more access and be more welcoming to people who don’t share the same background.

Follow Chev Dixon and the Hudson River Riders on Instagram.

Interview by Storr Erickson