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. 🙂