Summit grad who died kayaking called ‘always happy, adventurous’
SUMMIT COUNTY – Smiling, grinning, giggling, friendly, cheerful, always happy, adventurous – these are just a few words used to describe Derk Slottow, a 21-year-old Summit High School graduate from Summit Cove who died Saturday in a kayaking accident.
“I’ve never seen him sad,” said Christine Clark, Derk Slottow’s close friend. “He had a positive attitude toward everything. He was good at cheering people up and giving words of wisdom to make you push through.”
Clark met him five years ago at a kayak park in Golden – “It was barely running and there was still ice on the sides of the river. I was excited that someone was that passionate about kayaking besides me.”
Throughout college, they’d hike, ski, climb, go on long road trips and, of course, kayak.
“He was always the first one up, before dawn, jumping up and down, excited to go ski or kayak,” she said. “He’d wake the group up two hours early.”
According to Clark, Slottow also liked to take college friends to his hometown to ski and paddle, and they’d eat dinner with his parents.
“He was very close to his family, and a lot of his friends were real close to his family, too,” she said.
Derk Slottow’s passion for paddling started young – his first experience happened with his dad around age 9.
“He always liked to be on the water,” said Luke Slottow, his father.
And, after his freshman year of college at the Colorado School of Mines, Luke Slottow remembers a call from his son, asking to move off campus. His reason? To be within walking distance of the Golden kayak park. This past spring, Derk moved into “a nicer, better place, even closer to the kayak park. To his father, it wasn’t a surprise.
Derk would have graduated in December. Still ahead of schedule in terms of age – he skipped seventh grade – he had plans for post-grad adventures and hoped to stay in the area to be near his girlfriend, Mary Snook.
Clark said he had a list of places he wanted to paddle – marked in his river bible, Colorado Rivers and Creeks 2: The New Testament – and he was saving money to go on a larger trip.
She also noted his love for his job as an intern for the McLaughlin Whitewater Design Group, a company that designs whitewater courses and parks.
“He said it was the best job ever,” Clark said.
But his interests weren’t just paddling. He adored everything outdoors, was a serious civil engineering student, liked to cook, had a passion for reading (he loved Roald Dahl) and jammed out to classic rock. He even had a black belt in tae kwon do.
“He had this incredible amount of passion for everything he did,” Snook said. “He would boat as much as he could, hang out with his friends – and he never stopped smiling. We regularly went to hear music. He really loved music. He had a wall in Summit County where he’d put all his concert tickets.”
Clark confirmed his fascination with music: “We always had good music playing in the car, and we had a theme song for every weekend trip we took. He made CDs for friends with all the theme songs … It was the epitome of our summer.”
While driving around in his dusty, green Subaru, his iPod would always be blasting, Snook said. According to his father, Derk loved the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and The Who.
“He liked the classics,” Luke said. “That’s my fault. I took him to The Who when he was 8.”
He also liked to listen to AC/DC while skiing, said mother Annie Slottow.
Derk Slottow wasn’t your typical athlete. At 5’2,” his small stature masked his remarkable skills. He even won the Rocky Freestyle’s coveted Sportsman of the Year award in 2006 as a member of Team Summit, a well-known ski and snowboard team in the county.
“Everyone will just remember him with a big smile on his face and talking people into going outside and playing,” Clark said.
– President of the Colorado School of Mines Kayaking Club
– Fluent in Spanish
– Made the high school honor roll, took advanced placement tests for college and he received a scholarship in 2005 while a graduating senior
– Awarded the Colorado School of Mines Medal of Achievement in Math and Science in 2004, including a $1,000 scholarship to the college
– Favorite song according to Dad: ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ by Journey
– Born in Vail, a true High Country native
– Loved his brother, Gabe, an eighth grader at Summit Middle School
– Exceptional mathematician
– Loved to travel – visited Spain, Chile, Mexico to name a few
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