Over
20 years on the Nantahala I stayed in the habit of running Lesser
Wesser straight through, the classic continuity, bypassing the large,
ill-defined left eddy above the last drops, called Truck Stop for its
size and ease of entry. I had some close calls with surfers, nothing
more. Then a couple of years ago I came barging down in my Corsica,
and just as I set up to shoot right across the tongue, another
kayaker in a Prijon Hurricane pulled in to surf the bottom hole. He
saw me as I saw him, and I expected him to pull back toward river
left. Instead he slid right and sort of stuck there. All this
happened very fast.

I
knew I didn’t want to spear him in his chest, so I cut down over the
lower drop a little sooner than I had planned, hoping to slide my bow
harmlessly over his low, slim stern. Instead the tip of my bow hit
the edge of his stern with a powerful blow, throwing me against my
foot pedestal. I don’t know if I flipped; if so I must have rolled.
I think he failed to roll, or at least blew his skirt and swamped.

I
reached him as he was emptying his boat along the bank. He
apologized, but I wasn’t mad anyway, just concerned. The force of
the impact had left a small split along the mold line on the edge of
his stern. If I had hit him in the chest, I might have broken
several of his ribs.

So
now I always eddy into Truck Stop and take a look below. And I no
longer run through the double waves at Hell Hole on the Ocoee. Sure,
surfers should yield the right of way to boats coming straight
through the rapid, but face it: they aren’t yielding. I’m told that
recently, two paddlers came to blows over the right to surf Hell
Hole. Soon, maybe, TVA will station a traffic cop there to manage
the unmanageable.

With
our increasingly crowded rivers, up-and-coming paddlers need to put
greater emphasis on the ability to eddy out just above drops to scout
the river maggots. This is not just to avoid center punching
surfers. The paddler coming down from above is just about as much at
risk for upset and injury as are the feckless surfers.

by
Gary DeBacher
From The Eddy Line, January 1997