French Broad: Section 9

Early this winter break I was able to have my personal first decent down Section 9 of the French Broad. My friend Travis took me down with a couple of his other friends and it was a huge learning experience. Although most of the learning was about preparation than actually kayaking skills. It was a colder day in December and I thought a double layer of neoprene and a dry top would be all the gear I would need. I was extremely wrong. I ended up swimming at one point and I was so cold afterwards that I couldn’t even get my spray skirt back on. I had to paddle through a few rapids before I could catch and eddy and get some help from the other kayakers in the group. Thankfully, this guy Bret switched paddles with me so that I could use his pogies.
The lesson I learned was this: I am a wimp when it comes to the cold. If I don’t have the right gear from no on, I ain’t paddling. I wouldn’t have been so miserable after that swim if I had had a drysuit on. Wetsuits and dry tops just don’t cut it during a North Carolina winter. I honestly don’t want to be a fair weather paddler but, I am going to have to prepare more from now on so that I can paddle in the winter. To all of those who bear this cold with minimal gear, props to you!
Even though I was cold, I was thankful that I was able to go down and get a taste of Section 9. It was the first river I got to go down with my new boat! I can now cross it off my list of things I need to paddle. Plus, I am quite sure I will be down it a lot this summer while I am in Asheville. So I can hone my eddy catching, my surfing, and other paddling skills. I am quite excited!!

Peace Ya’ll. 🙂

Skills vs. Boat

October 27, 2014

In a previous post I told of my adventure kayaking the Ocoee. This is still a highlight in my current kayaking ventures, but it has recently been slightly down played.   The other day I was at the Liquid Logic factory in Fletcher, NC, looking at the new Flying Squirrel with my boyfriend. He was interested in buying one, and he had hoped to get me a tour of the factory. While he was talking to one of the employees about the boat, he drops a comment about how the Dagger Nomad is the type of kayak that makes you a ten times better boater than you really are.  This caught my attention because that is the very boat I used on the Ocoee. It go me thinking, “Is that really true?”  Can a boat really make you out to be more skilled than you really are?  And if so, is that why I was able to make it down so smoothly? I personally thought that it was because I had been spending what time I could, doing whatever I could, to heighten my kayaking skills. I would drill the instructors at roll clinic for advice and critiques on my form. I would practice paddling, bracing, and quick maneuvers to the best of my ability in the pool. I would watch video after video to study correct movement and reading water. I thought all of this had paid off and that I did so well on the Ocoee because of my own personal skill….I just wonder if I was wrong. So I want to ask my followers, do you think that the boat really could have made that much of a difference?

Peace Ya’ll

Gauley Fest 2014

October 22, 2014

This post is super late and I apologize for that…so about my first Gauley Fest experience, it was flipping amazing!!!!!!! (Literally, flipped the boat at a rapid called Insignificant)
I have been saying all year long how much I wanted to go to Gauley Fest this year. As the time got closer, the more an more determined I became to go. Although my determination was equally met with complications and hardships. I honestly thought my goal to go this year wasn’t going to be met because it came to 24 hours before Gauley Fest and I didn’t have a ride up there. I was on the verge of devastation. But as I mentioned before, my determination was at an all time high. I had been pestering my friend Cabell to go to Gauley Fest for weeks and he kept saying he wasn’t gonna go. However, my incessant nagging worked its magic an he decided to go at the last minute! I swear the river gods have a way of looking our for me but they make me sweat it out and I manage to get by, by the skin of my teeth.
The ride up there was gorgeous and I have to commend Cabell on his taste in music! It definitely complimented the atmosphere. We got to West Virginia late Friday night and I don’t think I have never seen so many kayaks in my life! It was incredible. I walked into the camp grounds and everyone was supercool and open. I also was able to run into some friends an they were able to provide me a tent to crash in. Since I managed to not have anything but a cheap sleeping bag and ground pad. (Talk about being prepared huh?) the same friends were also able to same me a seat in one of their rafts to go down the Upper Gauley the next day.
When we went down my group went in a three thwarted Puma and the other group went down in a three thwarted Aire raft. I was glad that I was able to go down with this group because they were a mixture of some I my friends from the Nantahala Gorge, other gorge people, and my future crew member Lee. We all had a blast and I am so blessed to have been able to experience that kind of water. Definitely some of the biggest stuff I have ever been on. I mean the Ocoee at 6000 cfs was big, but this river was bigger and definitely much more technical. I have go to give a shout out to my friend Blake Beshears for guiding us down! He did a stellar job and he definitely proved his skill level out there.
My favorite part was when we went down Sweet Falls. I had seen a ton of video footage of this rapid and it was so cool to be able to do it for myself! Plus, after watching all that video I knew the line that we needed to take through the falls. Granted, I want guiding but it made me feel competent and a little more skilled than before.
Not only did I have an awesome time rafting and exiting the festival while inWest Virginia. I also met a really cool chick, Lee Turner. She and I had and instant friendship. We just understood each other and we found out we both have similar whitewater ambitions. Because of this we decided to start a paddling group known as the Gnar Fairies. It is an all girls paddling crew that just wants to have a great time on whitewater and shred some gnar.
All in all I have to say I had the time d my life while I was in West Virginia and I can’t wait till next year!!

Peace ya’ll 🙂

Ocoee Adventure

October 18, 2014

This past weekend I got to play more on the Ocoee than I thought I was capable of doing. Yes, I have been on the Ocoee many times and often at high water. However, I haven’t ever really experienced the nanty flow of the Ocoee. Nor have I ever guided it or kayaked it. Well this past weekend I was able to do all of that!

On Saturday, after getting in at three in the morning, I was persuaded by my fellow Gnar Fairy, Lee, to kayak the Ocoee with her and her friend Austin. Somehow I accepted her challenge and went down in a friend’s Dagger Nomad.  I almost backed out at least three times as I was portaging the first rapid Grumpies. Mainly because the boat was heavy, I wasn’t use to carrying a kayak that far, and it was more or less torture. I swear my shoulders are still sore from carrying that damn boat. But the is also what kept me from stopping a turning around. Because I honestly did not want to carry that boat any farther than I had to and I couldn’t back down on Lee at that point. So once I got to the safety eddy by the play wave I sucked it up and started my second descend of whitewater in a kayak…..EVER.

Now to be honest, it was probably not the smartest decision on my part to go down the Middle Ocoee as my second kayaking adventure. However,it went a lot better than I thought it would and it was a huge confidence booster for me.  (that is until yesterday when my boyfriend dropped a couple of comments but, I’ll explain that later)  I only swam twice and the second time wasn’t even my fault.  The first time was after a rapid called Diamond Splitter and it happened when I hit an an eddy wrong. Yep, made it through the hard rapid and swam in the eddy, just my flipping luck.  The second time was because this stupid raft didn’t get out of the way of down flow traffic and they ended up running me over. I was able to flip back up after wards to just land sideways in a hole that flipped me and then I couldn’t roll back up.  I had to swim and miss the very last rapid, which pissed me off more than the swim! I was almost done and then it all goes to hell!

Although the entire trip was not dampened by those two instances. I  was able to boof for the first time and by my third time I wasn’t half bad. I was also able to challenge myself and take the actual lines through many of the rapids instead of sneak lines and chutes. Plus, the two people I paddled with, Lee and Austin, were both rather proud that I was able to style the rapids as much as I did.

All of this made me feel like all the hours I had spent training at the roll clinics had finally paid off and that i might actually be cut out for kayaking after all.

Now for the guiding part of my story. The next day I was able to go down with a senior guide from Wildwater, Ty, and his girl friend in a six thwarted raft. He guided all teh way down to a rapid called Flipper and then he let me take over the guide seat and test out the waters.  (Side note: by this point in my rafting career I had been scared cruddless of the Ocoee.  I had heard tons of horror stories, watched countless carnage videos, and had seen the monster it becomes at high water.  I honestly didn’t think I would ever be strong enough to handle the Ocoee. I wasn’t sure if I had enough faith in myself to actually be able to guide it and safely take customers down.) It was possibly one of the funnest times I had ever had in the guide seat! Ty was able to tell me the lines and I actually found myself naturally reading the water and having a good feeling of where I needed to be and how I was going to get there.  It felt completely natural! I lost a lot of fear for the Ocoee that day. Needless to say I still have a huge respect for that river because, I know exactly what it can do to you.  However, I don’t view it with fear anymore. I see it as a fun new challenge that i know I will eventually grab by the horns. Whether it be next summer or the summer after that, I now know that one day I will guide the Ocoee.

This huge milestone was hugely contributed to by my new paddling crew The Gnar Fairies.  If I wasn’t a part of this crew i would not have had the opportunity to experience that weekend. I am so excited for what other adventures lie ahead with this crew!

Peace ya’ll. 🙂

Update

September 13, 2014

Well there’s nothing really special about today. Its just another event-less Saturday that will be filled with friends, homework, and all around laziness. So different to my Saturdays during the summer. I am getting serious whitewater withdrawal. I wish I could go kayaking because I just want to get back on the river. At least i might be able to go to Gauley Fest next weekend. My first time and I have high hopes of how much fun it will be. I just have to find a new group to go down the river with since, the people I was originally gonna go down with are now going to some kayaking thing in MD. Although oddly enough, even if I don’t get to go down the river, I think it would still be a blast to go. All the vendors, music, and people just scream new experiences and adventure.
along with my adventure planning I have been practicing my roll again. Thankfully App State has a huge outdoors program which means they have a really good roll clinic. All the instructors that I have met there have been super nice, very knowledgeable able their specific role and the do a great job showing you step by step of how to accomplish your roll. I have vastly improved from my first roll clinic at App. I am so close to getting my roll. Literally all the instructor has to do is stretch my paddle back and up like an inch and a half and then I can roll back up. (Btw I am working on a C2C roll, sweep roll is slightly beyond my comprehension at this point) I think my problem is that I am not the flexible enough to get to that paddle position on my own. So for the next week I am going to be stretching out my sides and shoulders in hopes of being to nail that roll next week on Wednesday. Cause once I know I can get it, I will work on getting it very consistently in the pool and hopefully take it to the river and begin working on my combat roll. Duh Duh Duh Duh…..
Another good thing about the roll clinic at App State is the consistent supply of boats. They have a very large fleet of Wavesport EZGs ranging from 42 gal. to 60 gal. that they use mainly for the clinics in order to maintain a descent amount of free space in the pool. They also have a lot of Liquid Logic Remixes ranging from 59 gal. to 79 gal. The instructors have been gracious enough to let me use one of the Remix 69s. I would rather be learning in this boat than the EZG because this is what I will most likely be paddling on the river. That or a Pyranha Shiva but the school doesn’t have any of those. The Remix is a ton of fun and super fast, love the edges, and it is definitely teaching me a lot of balance and how to obtain a separate lower body movement verse upper body movement.

Well that pretty much sums up where I am at the moment. Hope everyone is having a fabulous weekend! Also I threw up some more pictures from my summerr on my blog!! check out the photo gallery and look at my work at class 3 Nantahala Falls!

Peace Ya’ll 🙂

An End to a Good Thing

Tuesday 26, August 2014

About ago from today I had to say goodbye to the place I had called my home for the past three and a half months. I had to leave the gorge. It was definitely bittersweet. I was having to leave a place that had changed me so much and that had taken and given me so much. But I wasn’t in full dismay. I mean there was a whole new life chapter wait on me in Boone, NC. I was and still am so excited for what was to await me in the mountains of Boone. I mean there is a ton of kayaking up here and if I play my cards right, maybe I’ll get to raft the Nolichucky soon. Plus, so many new people to meet and new experiences to have!! I miss the gorge even if I didn’t have air conditioning or dry clothing. But, I’m sure I’ll be back soon enough!

Peace Ya’ll 🙂

P.S. Photos from this summer soon to come!! Keep an eye out for them!

The Kayaking Journey: Take 9 – Finally Hit the H2O

July 20, 2014

Some time back I was finally able to have the opportunity to go down whitewater in a kayak. It was such an amazing experience!! I got to go down the Tuckasegee River in Bryson City, NC. A good class two training ground for beginner kayakers. Granted, I swam twice through the trip but, it was a really good learning experience. I worked on ferrying, eddy catching, and reading water from that low of an angle. I am not gonna lie, I really missed my raft when i was going through these class 2 rapids. I enjoy being able to prepare for what is ahead of me and I get like I couldn’t do that as well while I was in a kayak.
It was funny though, how humbled I was. These class 2 rapids scared the living crap out of me! I felt like I was the most unstable thing on the river. Being so much closer to everything can make you so much more vulnerable. Plus, I thought with my past whitewater experience would give me a slight advantage. How wrong I was. Ferrying is something I can do really well in a raft. So I thought that I would be able to do it in a kayak because, I thought I understood the angle. I was dead wrong. I about flipped trying to do my first ferry. Talk about humiliating. Also, did I mention this is one of my first dates with my current boyfriend? Oh yeah, the pressure was seriously on.
Not only did I almost flip over doing a ferry but, I had one of the most epic failures of a seal launch. It happened after not even being on the river for five minutes. We had paddled down to the first rapid called Stitches and it is a class three rapid. I decided against going down it because I didn’t have enough confidence in my ability. So i walk around and get ready for a seal launch. Needless to say, it ended very badly. I window shaded right into the current and missed a T-Rescue because I thought my boyfriend’s boat was a rock. I was less than happy of how the trip was beginning. Everything went okay after that until I eddy flipped after successfully going through a class two and again I missed the T-Rescue.
I feel like I really need to get my roll down because, I am less than fond of swimming and I seem to be missing way too many T-Rescues for my liking. I also wish I had more time to practice kayaking because i have been out since this past Tuskasegee trip. Its kinda disheartening.
Well wish me luck!

Peace Ya’ll.