Monday, July 5, 2010

Learning to Kayak (Part 2/2)

(continued from part 1/2)

Sunday was quite a bit more exciting than Saturday. Since we had our basic skills down, Mark, Chris, Allan, Dietrich, Samantha, and I skipped the lake today and went straight to the Tuckaseegee at a later put-in (where you put your raft into the river) to brush up on our whitewater technique before heading to the Nantahala River. After working our rolls (I'm still not quite able to complete one, but I've got 7 weeks to work on it), ferrying, eddying, and leaning into our turns, we packed up our stuff and drove to the Nantahala to have lunch then go down the river.
Lunch by the Nantahala

After we ate, we all put on our wetsuit pants and shirts, our spray jacket, and our spray skirts, then climbed into our kayaks to start our adventure down the Nanty. The reason the water on the Nantahala is so cold (52 degrees F) compared to the other rivers is because the source of the water is the bottom of Nantahala lake, which is 250 feet below the surface, and as such, isn't warmed by the heat of the sun. I was definitely glad to be so decked out in gear once I hit a rapid sideways and flipped over in this water. Quite shocking to say the least, haha.
As we continued down the river, I started to really feel the importance of keeping loose hips and really just going with the flow. If you try to fight the current, you will generally lose. If you lean with the current, keep your boat at the right angle, and face the rapids with confidence, success will come.
When we got to "Pizza by the River", we played around in a small rapid and went "surfing". When water cascades over a rock in a certain way, the downstream current can actually change direction and start flowing upstream right below the rock. When this happens, it is possible to approach the falls facing upstream and "surf" the wave in the current, staying in the same place in the river. It was really fun!
video
Surfing the wave outside Pizza by the River

After a few more sections of rapids, we approached Nantahala Falls, a class III rapid right upstream from the main NOC campus. We took our kayaks out just upstream from the falls, mapped out our planned route for running the falls, and walked back to our boats. As I streched my elastic spray skirt around the edge of my boat, what I was about to do really sunk in for the first time, and excitement spread throughout my body. The six of us took the right fork in the river, and coasted into an eddy just above the falls. At this point, my heart was racing, adrenaline flowing through my veins as I mapped out my strategy for taking the falls. Samantha went first, gave the signal at the bottom that she was ready for us to begin our descent. Dietrich and Allan went first, and were both successful in their attempt. As soon as a window opened up between rafts, I dug my paddle into the water, entered the current, and started rowing for my targeted route. I got going faster and faster, hit the center route, and cruised successfully through the falls. My second day in a kayak and I nailed a class III rapid on my first try! What a fun day!
We ran the falls once more, everyone made it through this time (the first time Chris didn't quite make it over without falling), and then we surfed the main wave under the bridge by Slow Joe's on the Nanty until 5 o'clock when we packed up our gear and left. All in all, this kayaking clinic was a great experience. I'm so excited that I get to continue rafting for the rest of the summer, it's such a fun, healthy, active experience each and every time.



I'm about to go on a rafting trip with my manager Charles and some other people. How cool is it that for my afternoon breaks from work, I get to go raft down a river? I'm so happy that I've got the job that I do! Life is good.

Peace and Love,
-John

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