Each week through August, the Wyoming County Press Examiner will be spotlighting a “Sportsperson of the Week” to recognize the efforts and achievements of our community members still enjoying their sporting passion.
This week we feature Jesse Ergott, a paddler from Tunkhannock, who recently became a member of the 444 Club. Members of this exclusive group have completed the entire 444-mile sojourn beginning in Cooperstown, N.Y., and ended it this weekend in Havre de Grace, Md. Ergott did his journey over a three-year span.
Name and Age: Jesse Ergott, 42
High School: Central Columbia (Bloomsburg), Class of 1996
Job: President and CEO of NeighborWorks NEPA
When did you begin paddling? About 10 years ago for kayak paddling, but earlier for canoe paddling.
Who or what got you involved? My grandfather took me out in a canoe while I was in college, and I got into canoe racing while I was in my early 20s. I have lived within a mile of the Susquehanna River my whole life- in Williamsport, Bloomsburg, and Tunkhannock- and always was interested in seeing it.
Who did you begin paddling with initially? I spent a lot of time with my grandfather in a canoe, he taught me how to read the water and how to paddle correctly.
Now who? Mostly with my wife Sara and kids Emma (15) and Ethan (14). But I also take day trips with my friends. I also spend time alone on the rivers, I enjoy fishing too. The idea for the sojourn trip came about by being out there and being able to see the entire Susquehanna River was more about the adventure than the sport.
What equipment is needed to be successful? A long touring kayak, especially for this trip, a real good life vest, a lightweight paddle so you don’t wear yourself out.
Has your sport taken you out of the state? This trip alone took me into New York and Maryland, but I have also been out west in Montana with my grandfather.
Have you seen any interesting things because of paddling? Overall, paddling gives me a reason to see nature from a different perspective than say hiking. On a river, you can be paddling alongside a city or urban area and never even know it because you are so remote. On the last leg of this trip, I saw over 60 eagles, as well as river rescues and other interesting things.
Have you received any awards or accolades? I won the Lackawanna River Corridor Canoe race with my friend John Cosgrove, and the Kiwanis Downriver race with my friend Lance Montross.
Tips to offer rookies: The main thing is to do your homework, know the river and the water levels. Also, know and recognize your own abilities, research and talk to those who have gone out before you. Also, make sure you can read a map. And to be able to adapt; for example, there were 15 dams on the sojourn, I had to know how to maneuver around them before I even went out there.
How would you explain this sport to people unfamiliar with it? Paddling is something that allows you to focus on the simplicity of life. For me, life can get complicated, there are a lot of variables, and there is just something great about going out on the water and pointing your boat in the right direction. Not a lot of thought has to be involved, let your mind wander. I was out there for 11-12 hours a day. Get out there and enjoy the accessible adventures available in our area.
Biggest accomplishment? The crown accomplishment for me was being able to finish this trip. The idea for the sojourn trip came about by being out there on the water and being able to see the entire Susquehanna River. It was more about the adventure than the sport. I was on a board with Richard Fitzsimmons, who also is a member of the 444 Club, and I loved the concept of seeing the entire river.
Why do you go paddling? Mainly for the opportunity to get out and go back to something simple. I get to spend time with God with no distractions. I am able to think, pray, and refocus on the important things in my life.
Athletes you admire? There really aren’t any professional athletes I admire, but I am in awe of the high school athletes right now, and how they are going through so much uncertainty and adversity but still able to show resilience throughout every announcement.
What music do you listen to while paddling? Typically, nothing. I use the time on the water to unplug.
Superstitions or rituals involved: Not really a superstition, but I try to start and end my day with prayer. Before I head out, I ask God to keep me safe and bless the day. At night, I thank Him for all I saw that day, and that I was able to complete the day safely.