So, we went to the Cartecay River Experience around 10am, where all the canoe and kayak paddling denizens of GA had crawled out from under their rocks, packed up their sketchy camper vans parked out by a river,  and stumbled off of some other folk’s couch from the night before.  The place was already humming at that hour and at least one or two shuttles had already been run.  I saw so many river regulars, I couldn’t even begin to mention them all.  My wife had come as well, intent on making our two wild eyed hounds behave appropriately, as if they were children in a Jane Austen movie.  We quickly loaded up the bus, saying hi to the Wild Chattooga Boys as they pulled up.  Jesse and Jill were there, to finish celebrating Jesse’s Bday.  I’ve gotta say, these two folks have been great paddle friends, and it’s just impressive to see how hard they have worked and how skilled at kayaking they have become.  When we got to the put in, Ricky T-Bones was there as well as Rich and Cheryl, and various other “regulars.” 

I was feeling pretty good after two runs with no swims and some successful combat rolls with my new paddle.  I was sure hoping to build on that!  I did numerous rolls as we floated down without incident.  Then we got down to Surfer’s Rapid.  I was side surfing, as the river guage showed 1.7ish (btw, this is what I usually mark off as low runable) and there’s a little hole and no real wave there.  I flipped and set up my roll only to carp like a champ, I carped so well, I did it three times total, until I ran out of breath and suffered the final indignity of a good slap to the head from a rock.  So I swam the swim of shame, just as more canoe and kayak paddlers were showing up. By the time I got my boat drained and back in it, there must have been around 30 boaters from various groups all hanging out at Surfer’s; a perfect audience for my incompetence.  I went out, intent to do an eddy roll, and promptly carped two times before swimming. 

For those of you not familiar with the term “carping”; this is when you try to roll up but your head posture is way up and you look like a carp sucking air.  A subgenre of carping is called “The Fainting Goat”; this is when you roll almost all the way up, but your head posture is preventing you from coming all the way over, and then you just slowing fade back into the murky depths. 

I’m a stubborn dude.  Every swim just makes me want to get back in my kayak and do it AGAIN.  But this time I had a little internal discussion with myself about the importance of head posture and how you didn’t want people to confuse you with Mark Holmberg, etc, and so I was able to pop off several eddy rolls.  So, okay, yeah, I know how to do this, I’m gonna go out, side surf again, and flip on purpose, and redeem myself.  Uhm no, I just further humiliated myself and swam once again. Robert and Gretchen were there, and Robert as usual was quick to dispense some sagely advice.  Fortunately, I’m a freak of nature and it was rather warm (much warmer than forecast) so I never got cold.  Of course, as soon as I got in my boat, you know I had to do a couple of eddy rolls before I would go anywhere.  Of course, sometimes you need to know when to say “when” and so I didn’t do my usual combat roll practice at whirlpool where I intentionally flip without a setup several times (what a great place to practice a roll!).  I did do a few more eddy rolls, I will get used to this smaller fiberglass paddle, but it isn’t going to happen in one week of paddling. 

Other than that, everybody had clean runs and a good time.  Now, this does not apply to people I was padding with, but I was surprised by other groups at apparently how many beer cans can fit inside a playboat, if it’s on the Cartecay.  When we got back the outfitter’s was buzzing with people lurking around at least a dozen crockpots of chili.  The clouds had lifted, it was warm and sunny, and felt more like April than January.  I looked around at all the people eating good food, sharing in fellowship, trading river stories and having a good time.  At that moment I felt so fulfilled to be a part of the boating community.  It also brought back so many found memories of similar events with the AWC, GCA and just friends. 

It’s been a great year, and I’ve felt like I’ve made a lot of progress as a paddler.  When I first bought a kayak, I was unsure I would ever even be able to roll it.  Adam and a couple of other victims that have made the hilight of some of my past trip reports asked me if I was going to write up my swims.  I said heck yeah!  I mean, I think people enjoy my little write ups because I’m not trying to show people how cool and skilled I am (like those kayaker porn videos where the runs get suspiciously edited here and there).  I try to write an honest account of the anxiety, fear and head games that go along with all the fun and beauty and help round out what’s so fulfilling about this sport.  Anyway, Happy New Year’s, I look forward to a great year of paddling!

ps.  Mark Holmberg is a heck of a guy, a great open boater, and pretty good kayaker.  Unlike me he prefers to wait on a heated pool to work on his roll.  I make fun of Mark because I like him 🙂

Jay Davis
January 1, 2012