My mind began to wander as I sat in the eddy waiting to run Gorilla today. The weather was perfect, as it is most days on the Green in summer, with temperatures just warm enough to make rolling almost a blessing — Good news when a roll is so likely within the next few minutes. I had a demon to chase, though.
It was a slow day on the Green this Friday, but a line of four (two different parties) was nonetheless waiting to spank or be spanked by the big monkey. I was joining the ranks. Although I have run Gorilla before, it was then the most terrifying thing in my experience; now it would be different, like it is for all the casual Gorilleers of today. That’s right, a run on the big boy of the southeast, probably the most talked about hard rapid around here, is becoming common place… common place without scouting, without a rope set, without much thought or reservation, just a bang through a slot and a towering 20 foot crap shoot… wonder how I’ll land this time? Wonder if I’ll get stuck in that hole??
My kayak floated over the first 10 footer, plunging the nose of my Cascade deep, bonking a rock, and spinning into the eddy as the bow surfaced. From the eddy above me, Trip gave me the signal that the eddy at the lip of the drop was clear. I turned and began to float toward the entrance slot, setting a bit of angle, and sleepily giving one stroke to get me across the current and into the eddy. Out foul spirits, out! I made eye contact with Lean from the eddy above the beast, making sure that he was holding the rope for me… I’d hate to swim those next three class V’s if something went wrong.
The next move is the most difficult yet simple move in the world. Seeming to defy all logic above a drop of this magnitude, the move is to peel out slowly and wait. Wait for the little lift up the pad, which leaves your stomach lighter than the wildest roller coaster ride, wait for the rush of speed as gravity takes hold, wait for the curtain of water to peel your eyelids back and turn them inside out, wait for what comes up on the world’s wettest slot machine.
Not enough lean to the right today. I was picked up and radically flung upside down to the left before I knew what was happening. Reflexes laid my back against the deck for the screw roll before I was even upside down, and I used the momentum of the flip to roll me all the way around as I pounded through the hole. Stay awake, with this much speed there’s at least one more class V before an eddy.
Trip ran the thing twice in ten minutes, chasing his own Green River demons, trying, as I was, to defy the fact that this drop is so irreversibly scary. Or is it so irreversible? A slow day and 4 contestants… who knows how many more were in the two or three other parties on the Green today? Most of the Friday afternoon Green committee was at the trade show… how many of them would have done the Gorilla shuffle Las Vegas style as well? How many of them would have been afraid as they sat there in Roulette Eddy, waiting their turn to peel out?
Gorilla is one of the greatest demons I have ever faced. It sits right there, easy as pie for those with the will power to just float, and haunts me every time I walk past it. It took a tiny piece of my finger today… who knows when, I can’t remember much between the launching pad and the hole.
Everyone who runs the Green a lot is drawn to it sooner or later. It’s a symbol, a symbol of the outer edge, a symbol of the changes in our sport, a symbol of the conquering of fear, a symbol of the wild oblivion charc so many more of us ride to a greater degree these days… a symbol to me, anyhow.
A dazed looking guy paddled up to me at Hammer Factor one day about a year ago. When he tried to smile, I noticed that half of each of his two front teeth was missing. The remains, and all of the two teeth beside them, looked like a shattered wind shield. Gorilla. I hear it was forty thousand dollars worth of dental work, but people exaggerate sometimes, especially paddlers.
Changes in the sport, better or worse?? Both, I guess.
Conquering fear, good or bad?? Both, I guess.
Challenging the outer edge, good or bad?? Both, I guess.
Wild oblivion charcs??
Mine will probably head over that horizon line again, for better or for worse.
From Newsgroup “rec.boats.paddle”.
Reprinted in The Eddy Line, October 1996
by Leland Davis