On Sunday the plan was boating the Cheat Canyon! ..and I was in a raft with two of my friends, Lydia and Dani. Though, I was really itching to hard-boat as I had recently found some success on the Cheat Narrows with my friend Everett’s Wavesport Recon, being able to roll it with ease (onside & offside…it’s a magical boat).
We didn’t have the Recon on Sunday, but I found that another friend, Matt was going to tow a play boat with his shredder for surfing in Big Nasty. I had hard-boating fever since my last trip, so I asked if he minded if I went down in his play-boat. I asked quite confidently, feeling that I was ready for the undertaking that is hard-boating the Cheat Canyon.
In the Hard-boat:
The play-boat was much different in the water than I imagined, and compared to the Recon I had a very hard time rolling it. I swam once at the end of the first large rapid, and was a little shaken up by how I couldn’t roll the boat when I needed to.. but, I thought no, I can figure this thing out, and gave it another try… and down the river we went. The next larger rapid was more complex, and I was the only hard-boat among 3 inflatables…So I picked a line that looked …well, not good. I was headed right into a curling hydraulic that consumed me and my boat..I had a good breath though, and tried rolling back up, failing twice, but getting close with another breathe each time. On the 3rd attempt at rolling, I reached out to brace off the surface of the water, but at the same time I went over a spillway in the rapids, my right arm extended to far and smacked down into the next tier of rapids. Under water I heard the crunch/crackle and a tear, as my should slipped free of it’s socket…I suddenly lost all use of my right arm. Upside down, underwater, and with one arm I tried to jettison the boat. Forgetting to pull my skirt, I got caught by it’s elastic embrace before I was able reach it with my working/swimming arm to release it. I seemed to stay under for a little while before it was done with me. Then, the river kindly reset my shoulder back in it’s socket. Suddenly able to use my right arm again, I made my way into an eddy where I was rescued by a raft of friends.
Maimed, ego flattened, and feeling thankful to be alive, I sat humbled by the river. The realization of how much knowledge I had yet to earn and learn came over me… The Cheat Canyon is big water, and we were running on the low side that day. From a raft, the large white water is much easier to manage, which warped my perspective of the Canyon. My girlfriend Tara had warned me of the magnitude and technicality of the canyon, even when the water is low.
“The burned hand teaches best.” ~J.R.R. Tolkien.
The following collection of images were taken post injury while riding princess in Dani and Lydia’s raft (save the first two). I think these photos are a good testament to the products of staying positive after unexpected/unfortunate events, and also the support of great friends.
The irony is that on Saturday evening I took a jaunt on my bike through White Park (prior to boating Sunday ) and thought the whole time that I was going to break or dislocate something if I wan’t careful. My biking skills are only so so, & going over large logs was simply me asking to hurt myself…so I didn’t. I just cruised around, or hopped off and ran over them… and it was a good day. I need to learn to listen to my intuition more, and crosswalk some of that logic into areas where my ego has set up shop.
An underwater journey with Jim Snyder into the mysteries of squirt boating. …from an evening with friends along the Cheat River
“Squirt boating originally evolved from slalom kayaks. Racers found that if they let the upstream hip drop into the current and slide the stern of the boat under water, they could decrease the amount of time required to make large degree turns (90+ degrees). West Virginia kayaker Phil Coleman dubbed it squirt because of the way the boats squirted forward with extra speed thanks to the trapped buoyancy of the stern and the shape of the hull and deck. It is analogous to squeezing a pumpkin seed in between your fingers and having it shoot out away from you.
After this original maneuver was developed, a number of paddlers noticed that squirting was a lot of fun and introduced a new method of playing on the river. Squirts allowed the boats to get vertical even in flat water. The problem was that the predominant kayak designs of the 1980s were not conducive to doing squirts. Most kayaks at the time were more than 10 feet long and had a volume greater than 70 gallons (260 liters). Jess Whittemore, a kayak designer, designed the first chopped boats based on race boat designs that were intended to squirt. Then, one fairly well known paddler, boat designer, and paddle maker by the name of Jim Snyder decided to try and create a shorter boat that was designed to squirt that could also be used for running and playing on the river. The result, after many years of trial and error, was a radically low volume boat.
Squirt boating is slowly becoming more and more popular. Because it has the best of both worlds, since certain ones are very good at doing tricks in (Underdawg, Hellbender) and others are very good at doing Mystery moves in (Shred, Kor) and some are just as good as doing both (Funk, Angst.) Also most squirt boats are very good at surfing.” ~wiki
Published in Nature Conservancy Magazine
I shot an assignment for The Nature Conservancy last spring featuring several aspects of the Cheat River. This February the story was published in Nature Conservancy magazine including two of my photographs from that assignment. Happy days! Check out the compelling story by Ted O’Callahan called.
Within the world of outdoor adventure there are many subsets of interests, each with their own rabbit hole of fascination and intrigue. This video is found at the bottom of one of these rabbit holes…
In the subset of water sports, there is whitewater boating. Within the whitewater boaters we have another subset—kayakers. And, of those gnarly bunch we have another subset who label themselves squirt boaters.
In squirt boating, paddlers with neither paddle nor PFD ride currents underwater in sleek crafts designed in part to sink and ride the subsurface flows.
This is my first video I’ve ever made using video files… normally i stick to photos, and my videos have been time-lapses comprised of hundreds or thousands of photos.
I had been trying to capture photos of them in the turbulence, but when I asked Jim what type of media squirt boaters prefer… he replied video! So, I swtiched the GoPro to video for the first time and had at it.
Like the photo below, I would dive down into the flow, but instead of letting it take me, I’d latch on to a rock with my free hand, gopro in the other. Fortunately, I can hold my breath for well over a minute.
The real fun was after Jim and Jesse would paddle past my position, I’d launch off after them into the torrent.