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.