Larry Koenig, 47, was born in Iowa City but
grew up, the second of eight children, in Baton Rouge, LA.
As a child he couldnít figure out whether he wanted most to be a cowboy
or an Indian but he knew he wanted to be an explorer. And, from childhood on, the canoe beckoned. Paddling a
pirogue in Louisiana cypress swamps and canoes in scout camp lakes, he knew the
allure and the promise of the paddle. To travel, self-contained, accepting all
as it comes and not knowing where oneís head might rest at night was
His first year of college ended in
shambles and he signed on as a deckhand, traveling the waterways from Galveston
Bay to Pittsburgh along the Intercostal, Mississippi and Ohio Rivers. The next
two years were spent at a Benedictine abbey in Southern Indiana where, for room
and board, he worked the dairy and the farm.
Appropriately, a recurring dream of those monastic days was to canoe down
the Anderson River into the Ohio and on down to home.
(He hasnít, yet.)
At 21 he returned to Baton Rouge and,
inspired by the impending birth of his son, Nathan, worked and studied at LSU to
get into medical school. In LSU
Medical School, Shreveport, as a second year student he bought his first canoe
and paddling local streams and swamps and the nearby Arkansas whitewater became
the major focus of his extracurricular life. In that same year his daughter,
Sarah, a natural paddler, was born.
The location of his residency hospital
was chosen largely by the whitewater nearby and the Pacific Northwest had
plenty. Three years were spent at
Portland, Oregonís emergency medicine program.
Off days were for hiking and paddling.
His first venture into the Pacific Ocean in an open canoe ended in near
disaster. Unlike the warm Florida
waters of the Gulf of Mexico where family vacations had traditionally been
spent, Pacific waters were cold and a long unplanned immersion led to an
overnight in an ICU. Valuable
lessons were learned.
Back in Louisiana in 1984, he began
working the ER at Franklin Foundation Hospital and exploring the seaworthiness
of the kayak. Pilgrimages to North
Carolinaís Nantahala Outdoor Center for technique work permitted bolder solo
forays into the gulf (and rekindled his joy in moving water).
The shift work nature of life in the ER allowed him to paddle much of the
shore and coastal waterways of the northwestern Gulf of Mexico, and a host of
rivers in the American West (including the Grand Canyon) and Chiapas, Mexico.
In the last few years he has been
introduced to the tremendous resources of the British Canoe Union and recently
passed an assessment in Anglesey, Wales to become a BCU coach.
It is his great fortune to be married to
his Cajun bride, Janell, whose tolerance and beauty stun him still.