When I wrote about my kayaking trip at New River Gorge in “Out of Boat Experience”, I had only about 5 minutes to do so. Let me expand.
We had a choice of two types of boats– a “sit-on-top” kayak which leaves your legs exposed to the sun and the water, with only two straps to hold your knees in place. It’s easier to fall off, but harder to flip and you won’t have trouble getting out. The other–the kind I used–had a skirt that went around your waist (in my case, with the help of duct tape) and kept you attached to the kayak, so only your upper body was above the kayak, while your legs were inside the enclosed body of the boat. I was terrified that I wouldn’t be able to pull of the skirt if I flipped and that I would thus drown. I know, I’d practiced flipping, but I’d had my hand on the plastic release mechanism. So I made up my mind not to flip.
Well, that wasn’t all that easy, considering the level 3 rapids. I wasn’t even yet comfortable paddling down the shimmering peaceful part of the river when I saw the first stretch of bubbling violent water.
The key (and the problem) to whitewater kayaking is that you have to go head on into the rapids. If you try to slow down, or lean back, or stop paddling, or turn… that is when you flip. Somehow I managed to battle my instincts and remained afloat. As one of the instructors told me, it’s not over until you’re upside-down. Even when I hit a rock. And the great part is that the adrenaline made the muscle cramps immediately disappear the moment I entered a rapid. And before I knew it, we’d passed the hardest part and saw the bus at the pick-up point.
And yes, it was fantastic, despite the blisters and the sunburn and the bruises.
A picture a friend took from a bridge on the way to the New River Gorge.
Not my picture, thank god! But the same river.