One man's rush to jump on the kayaking bandwagon

Whitewater Paddling at the NOC

During a recent trip to Bryson City, NC, I warned my wife not to let me get near a whitewater boat. I'm pretty sure it would be love at first paddle. Compared to sea kayaking, I see a lot of upside to WW kayaking. Instead of buying expensive rack gear and struggling to get my sea kayak on top of my car, I can throw my WW boat in the backseat. Instead of the letdown associated with realizing that my car is 10 miles away and I'll be paddling against the current, I would rarely loose sight of my car. Instead of seemingly endless stretches of waves and swells and no choice but to paddle through them, unless I'm upside down, I can stop paddling at any time. I may even be able to grab onto a rock or tree. I may even be able to paddle a few feet, climb out of the lake and rest. In WW kayaking, a long paddle is only a few hundred feet, not 15+ miles.
I didn't go WW kayaking, but the family and I did go rafting on the Natahala river. It was my first time and it was a lot less exciting than I expected. We also had a bit of a mutiny on our boat. It seems that the crew lost faith in our captain's ability to steer the boat. If I were to offer any advice to those that have never gone rafting before, if you have any paddling experience at all, skip the group experience and get a single raft. It looks like a lot more fun.
We spent some time at the shop at the Natahala Outdoor Center. It has a lot of whitewater gear in stock. I finally picked up a decent quick-dry paddling shirt. I was able to try on helmets and figure out just how big my head actually is. (It's not as big as my wife says it is.) Since the extended family has many photographers, we all took quite a few photos of the whitewater action.

July 01, 2008