On
a recent trip to the Chattooga River, on somewhat of a whim I decided
to buy a used Wilderness Systems squirt boat at one of the local
outfitters stores. Since the river was running at about 2 ft. and
rising we jointly decided to run Section III and proceeded on to
Earl’s Ford. At the put-in I decided to paddle my Acrobat since I
hadn’t ever paddled a squirt and didn’t feel very comfortable in it.
After some convincing by my brother I changed my mind and took my new
boat. In retrospect I am amazed at my own stupidity in agreeing to
this, paddling an incredibly uncomfortable boat for 13 miles. If you
have never been in a squirt boat before, then the only way that I can
describe it is that it is like putting on a pair of really tight blue
jeans with a kayak molded onto them — Claustrophobia.

When
I got ready to get in my kayak at the put-in, I discovered that I
couldn’t get my feet all the way in with my booties on. Big deal, I
figured. I’ll just go barefoot: BIG mistake (more on that later).
At the big pool at Earl’s Ford I discovered that I could stern squirt
head high on flat water effortlessly, and that the boat rolled
easily. At the onset of the trip I was having a great time. Even
the smallest waves, holes and eddy lines are fun in a squirt boat!

By
the time we got down to Dick’s Creek ledge, I was starting to get a
little uncomfortable; in a squirt boat there isn’t any back support,
and one’s legs and feet are completely flat and straight out in front
of you. This puts a tremendous amount of strain and pressure
directly on your lower back and stomach muscles. I was still dealing
with the pain fairly well, mainly because the boat was giving me a
fantastic ride, especially down The Narrows. It felt like I went
down the majority of the rapid with my bow at about a 45 degree
angle. The boat did effortless, vertical squirt 360’s in the
whirlpools at the bottom section of The Narrows. Fun!

I
was starting to get a pretty good understanding of river running
technique in a squirt boat. Avoid rocks at all costs, it’s scary how
easily these boats can get pinned or broached on things. It’s very
important to boof drops with unknown pool depth. I also found myself
running slanting drops at an angle to avoid exposing my bow to the
unknown. It’s a really bad idea to do squirts in water of unknown
depth, since one risks broaching or ripping the stern off the boat.

We
stopped to eat lunch after Pinball and as I shimmied out of my boat I
discovered my feet looking like hamburger meat. The unfinished
surface of the fiberglass on the inside of my boat was having a
cheese grater effect on my feet. Since nobody had bothered bringing
a first-aid kit, I did what I had to do, I got my buddy Joe to wrap
my feet in duct tape. Yet another use for the kayaker’s best friend.

As
we got into the long, tedious flat water section between Pinball and
Painted Rock rapids, I was in my own private hell. My stomach
muscles felt like I had done hundreds of sit-ups and crunches, and my
lower back felt like I had been dead-lifting a swamped open canoe. I
pondered which was worse: this part of Sec. III or the Lake Tugaloo
portion on Sec. IV? It seemed to be a toss-up.

Finally,
after what seemed like an eternity, we reached the take-out where we
caught a ride with some GCAers from South Georgia. Thanks guys.
During the long shuttle, as I untaped my raw feet and massaged my
aching back, I debated whether or not the incredible ride that squirt
boats offer is worth the excruciating discomfort and increased
danger. I honestly had to answer yes, as the old axiom goes: you’ve
got to pay to play, and/or, if you can’t do the time don’t do the
crime! I fully intend to limit my squirting to short trips like the
Ocoee, or Big Pigeon in the future!

I’ve
never seen much about squirt boating in The Eddy Line or met any
GCA paddlers who are into it. If there are any fellow squirtists out there
I would love to hear from you and possibly paddle with you sometime!

by
Neal Hunt
From The Eddy Line, June 1997