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Gettysburg College
Gettysburg, PA 17325

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Hidden Talents: Kayak

By John Regentin

Assistant Dean of College Life, Director of Experiential Education.

 

Location:  Browsing Room (Main Floor)

September – December, 2008

 

When John Regentin turned 30, his wife gave him an unusual gift – a kit to make his own wooden kayak. “When I opened the first box and saw all the pieces of wood, I said ‘either this will be a remarkable craft or the most expensive bundle of kindling ever purchased,’” he says.  A year later, he was paddling his craft around Lake George in New York. 

Regentin’s woodworking skills are this fall’s Hidden Talents exhibit in Musselman Library’s browsing room. Through posters, tools, drawings, and the actual kayak, the exhibit tells the story of hand-building a kayak.

 

  Known for his love of the outdoors, Regentin, Assistant Dean of College Life and Director of Experiential Education, added kayaking to his repertoire 10 years ago in Nova Scotia.  “I was watching others paddle in and out of the coastal caves along the shoreline and it looked like a great way to get around in the water.”

Still, he isn’t sure why he wanted to build a kayak. “I remember embracing the romance of paddling a wooden craft in quiet waters listening to the world around during a sunset.  The only issue was I did not have the wooden kayak—so I suppose I was then drawn to the idea of just building one, it was cheaper than buying one already fabricated.”

Regentin learned his carpentry skills from his father, who, in turn, had learned from his own father and grandfather.  But he says it was really his father’s work ethic that inspired him to tackle this job.  “I learned from my father not to question my abilities and not to seek recognition for a job completed. He would say ‘a job well done is its own reward.’ This kayak represents that statement; I built it to see if I could.”

 

 

Since completing the kayak, Regentin says his carpentry skills have flourished.  He is in the final stages of a complete home renovation where his father joined him in demolishing walls, building headers, adding trim and flipping the kitchen.  Now he wants to refurbish a classic Chris Craft runabout boat and take a course in timber frame construction. 

 

“Though these are skills I am interested in developing, it is more important that my son Jack is able to reflect on life one day and say ‘this is what I learned by watching and spending time with my dad,’” he says. “The kayak was just a stepping stone to what life has to offer…”

 

 
 
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