Tuesday, April 21, 2009

First Time Cheatin'

The following is a contribution by fellow Got Boofer - Matt "Math, Dr. Jones" Pascal

My first ever shot at leading a club trip came this past Sunday, when 16 boaters agreed to put their faith in my guiding them from Albright, WV down the long and hearty Cheat River. To spoil the end of my report, this story ends well; the same 16 boaters cheerfully hoisted their crafts to their shoulders at the take out about 5 hours later while Steve Wang sheepishly admitted that he once was young and foolish enough to have jumped off the Jenkinsburg Bridge. I gasped and reminded him that it was “plumb crazy” for him to intentionally put himself into danger’s way (hint, foreshadowing).

Promptly at 9 am, we congregated at Little Sandy’s truck stop to perform the essential cognitive activity of the day: the shuttle. A mild headache later, five vehicles pulled out of the lot on their way to the take out while the remaining vehicles, their passengers, and 17 boats scattered about among the eternal revolving door of tractor trailers and pick up trucks.

A long shuttle drive later, we slipped into the orange waters of Muddy Creek and scraped down about 100 yards to the slightly less orange Cheat River. The group corralled at the confluence, and I told Jen “Stern Squirt” Raber that a level of 3.7 feet was juicy, To be clear, I told her, the Cheat was not high. but it was most definitely not low. Overhearing me, Dave Greenwald rolled his eyes and chuckled while first time cheat boater, Martin Wittmann, took a big gulp and peeled out in his itty bitty Jackson playboat.

I forgot most of the lines. Actually, to be precise, I never really knew them. But, really, who other than a veteran Cheat raft guide knows the lines through the dozens of unnamed Cheat rapids? Feeling a bit silly, I announced to the group that if I don’t announce a line or if the line doesn’t become entirely obvious as they approached rapids, then it was on the left. John Brady chuckled, though I believe he knew I was right.

And on went our crew. They bopped through countless nameless class 2 and 3 rapids, putting their confidence in me. For some strange reason, this confidence remained strong even after my little spat with Big Nasty.

Which, for the record, was Grease Fire’s fault.

After scouting and successfully navigating Big Nasty, our group congregated in the eddies on both sides of the run out of the notorious hole. Rob “Grease Fire” Mitchell and I have a history of getting each other into trouble, and this was exactly what I was up to when I first attempted a surf of the big hydraulic. “Worst case is you swim out of it” was part of my advice to the newbies above Big Nasty, and what I reiterated to myself upon pulling my boat into the surge. Quickly it spit me out with a strong denial, and – just as I expected – Rob was eager to make his attempt. His surf was similarly a non-surf. After getting similarly denied, he looked back at me and nodded, as if to say, “go for it.” And so I upped the ante and really dove into the hole.

Jason Hilton tells me my bow went deep into the hole and then swung hard into the foam pile for a few bow-to-stern cartwheels.

On my end, it was utter chaos. I had about 0.5 seconds of sense and began to set up a roll, but from there it was nothing but mayhem. Giving up relatively quickly, letting go of the paddle, and pulling the skirt typically ends with a big breath of air, but in this case the next thing that happened was an aquatic gaze up through several feet of pearly green water followed by more tumbling. It would be an uncomfortably long time before that gulp of air came. And, when I did come to the surface swimming aggressively, I opened my eyes only to find myself swimming upstream in the recirculating boil. I was at the top of the foampile staring down about 12 feet into the meat.

After I hacked up more Cheat River water than I wish to admit, I received a round of applause. It was then that I looked down to discover that the two Snickers bars I’d stashed in my PFD were gone. That damn hole literally ate my lunch.

I like to think of the Cheat as a very long chain of flatwater pools connected by about 30 rapids. Those pools make the collection of gear much more convenient when playboaters get stuck in holes and swim. It happens to lots of playboater all the time, and it happened to us on Sunday.

But, the real event came to life just above Pete Morgan’s rapid.

After scouting Coliseum, we set up safety with a rope on either side of the outflow and boaters in eddies. We did not want a swim out of Coliseum to turn into a swim through Pete Morgan. Moments later (okay, more like a half hour), after a successful run through the big rapid by all, we began to hop eddies to get a good look at Pete Morgan. Halfway there, I glanced back to see, for a split second, a rare triple side surf in three distinct adjacent holes. All three accidental sidesurfers looked calm, but they were all working hard to become unstuck. By the time I had jumped to shore with a rope, Jen had flipped in her hole only to right herself with a blown skirt. As water rushed into her boat it favored the stern cavity and by the time she was in the meat of Pete Morgan, Jen was paddling a swamped boat in an eternal stern squirt. Remarkably, her line was clean. She jumped out and began to swim while the rest of the group rounded up her gear.

With confidence high, the group chatted and laughed, telling tall tales through the final miles of runout below Pete Morgan. We returned to the put in soggy and tired and redistributed bodies and boats while Ralph Teter prepared his campground for CheatFest. Judging by the size of the fire he set to burn the rubble that accumulated over the winter, it appears that he’ll be ready.

The 2009 TRPC First Time Cheatin’ Trip included John Brady, Paul Eisner, Rick Gates, Dave Greenwald, Jason Hilton, Alan & Andre Kumonkowski, Jeff Lorimer, Ed McGuiness, Rob Mitchell, Jen Raber, Phil Raber, John Rudland, Steve Wang, Martin Wittman, and Matt Zeleznik.

Fantastic Trip Matt!

Monday, April 06, 2009

Hometown Throwdowns

The World Kayak Hometown Throwdown series is coming to our region and I (Jason Hilton) have been given the great distinction of hosting these four events. These events are designed to appeal to all boaters rather than the elite paddlers of our realm, and are designed to show off just how fun white water kayaking really is, and remind us all why we first entered this sport.

As such, while we will recognize winners for events, our prizes will be handed out randomly amongst all participants. That's right, you can win the top prizes just for showing up to play, and you could get first place and simply take home bragging rights!

The best part is that most of these events are free, with a few of them requiring only small insurance fees to participate in event in a state park (cost $5.00 ACA insurance through TRPC)

Events include:
1) Stonycreek Rendezvous Playboating – Saturday 4/25
2) Slippery Rock Giant Slalom – Friday Evening 6/5
3) Turkey Bash Mass Start Downriver – Friday Evening 7/31
4) Ramcat Old School Slalom – Saturday 8/22 – Sunday 8/23

Sponsors include:

Jackson Kayak
Immersion Research
Shred Ready
Smith Optics
Mountain Khakis
NuuN: Active Hydration
Rapid Transit
Kayak Session
Salus Marine
Kayak Habit
Redwood Creek Wine
Stonyboater Paddlerwax

You can find out more about these events here

See ya out there with a full load of prizes