Well, I’m not sure what possessed me to agree to do this, but yesterday I went whitewater kayaking for the first time, with Dan and our friend Dan Borick. This was the third – count ’em, one, two, three – time I have ever been in a kayak. The other two times were in the past two weeks on the Western Branch of the Elizabeth River, at the end of our street, where the water was absolutely flat as a pancake. Are you impressed yet?
It was a blast 🙂 The trip was sponsored by a group of Richmond kayakers called the Corn Youth Alliance (CYA). I have to thank them, especially a guy named Thomas, aka MonsterK, for keeping an eye on me as I hit almost every obstacle out there, except for the bridge. Don’t know how I managed to avoid that one.
I noticed as we were getting ready to put the boats in the water that the one I had, borrowed from Dan’s boss Laura, was much longer and skinnier than any of the others, and I wondered why. Well, it turns out that the shorter, wider kayaks are much more maneuverable on the river rapids. With my long slim profile and novice skills, I kept going sideways and running right into rocks and logs – right where I did not want to go. Once, I had to actually climb out of the boat, carefully walk up the hull to the bow, step onto a giant boulder in the middle of the river, pull the boat over the rock, get back in the boat, and launch it again. Dan and Danny were ahead of me and couldn’t get back to help me, and I couldn’t hear whatever they were shouting at me, so I had to figure this out on my own. I am so proud of myself 🙂 That gymnastics training from long ago sure came in handy.
Not long after that, we hooked up with the CYA group. After I told Thomas this was my third time in a kayak, they seemed to always be around when I needed a hand. Hm, I wonder if that was a coincidence or their way of avoiding liability for someone drowning during their event? 😉
Here’s a great, interactive map of the route. Scroll to the right and you’ll see Pony Pasture Rapids – that’s where we put the boats in. Keep on scrolling to the bottom right to follow the path we took, to the take-out at Reedy Creek. Keep on scrolling right to see the Class IV rapids called Hollywood, in downtown Richmond. This is what we would hit had we not made it into the take-out. There seemed to be several members of CYA making sure we got to the take-out 😉
At one point, not noticing the upcoming three-foot drop over a dam, I landed on a wall and got stuck. Another of the trip guides came by to help me off it, I went down in the right place, and promptly landed on another rock. The sequence of events is blurry already, but I managed to get safely to the take-out. When I got out of the boat, I was surprised to feel like I had been sailing for a few days, unsteady legs and all. It took a little while to get my land legs back.
But now I think I’m hooked, so it’s time to start looking for a kayak for me. Dan’s is 10 feet long, so that might work. Here’s one I kinda like.
Check out the rest of the pix in my album.