My first trip to the National Whitewater Center in Charlotte didn’t bode well. In the very first rapid, called Entrance Exam, I flunked when I flipped and ended up taking a long swim. I was completely overwhelmed by the chaos of the river and was on the verge of quitting and going home. But eventually I got back in my boat and kept at it.
This fall, I made my third trip to the NWC and things are going swimmingly, which is to say I’m not swimming as often! One of the things that I love about this new sport is that reconnects me with the challenges and joys of the learning process. It’s amazing how far you can go when you work at something diligently, with energy and focus, with a good team of people who believe in the outcome.
Now I’m running the entire channel, which feels great. I do get flipped in my kayak, frequently, but I roll back up and it’s no big deal. Even when I flipped in the biggest rapid, called Shut Down, I rolled up and kept on going. Sure I feel like I got punched in the face sometimes but I can now respond to the chaos that’s all around me.
I still have a lot to learn but it feels good to make it through the whole course. There’s one section, known as M-Wave, that is tough because it requires some tricky maneuvers to avoid getting trapped by a nasty little eddy that spins me all around and is hard to escape. I eventually learned a technique that pushes me into the channel so I don’t get trapped. It may not sound like much to a non-kayaker but making it through M-Wave makes my day!
Of course, it helps that two Olympic-caliber kayakers and coaches—Pablo and Casey—are guiding me. These guys have such a tremendous skill set that they can be in the right place at the right time to assist me.
So I definitely believe I’m making progress at this wild and crazy activity. It’s both the scariest thing I’ve ever done and the most thrilling. Check out this video of some of my runs from my helmet cam.
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