At Georgia River Network, we feel pretty lucky. Not only are we able to come into work every day and work to protect the rivers we love, we also get to work beside a handful of special people who are making Georgia’s rivers better places for all of us. Our River Heroes are people we can’t do without-and we want you to know about them!
Since 2006, Vincent Payne has kept thousands of Paddle Georgia Paddlers safe and happy on the river. Paddle Georgia is the biggest event Georgia River Network puts on each year, and without the dozen or so volunteers like Vincent who take on substantial chunks of the workload, Paddle Georgia wouldn’t be the one-of-a-kind community event that it is. That said, very few people work like Vincent on behalf of the Paddle Georgia Navy, and his good work ensures that the participants not only have fun, but also stay safe.
Vincent first experienced Paddle Georgia on the Etowah as a volunteer safety boater, since then he has taken many turns as the trip’s sweep boat, or the “Grim Sweeper,” a job that requires a lot of patience and a healthy sense of humor, and for several years in a row he has coordinated all the Georgia Canoe Association (GCA) safety boaters for the trip. Being the Grim Sweeper basically entails following the slowest paddler on the river all day, every day for a whole week, and the patience of Job. And what did Vincent do with all that down time on the river? He collected fishing bobbers he found in the river, resulting in what is probably the finest and most comprehensive collection you’ll find anywhere.
In the past few years keeping people safe on the river during Paddle Georgia has become Vincent’s purview: he has worked as the GCA safety boater coordinator for the trip. During the year he assists Joe Cook with scouting the Paddle Georgia route to identify places where the paddlers will likely need assistance with obstacles or rapids, he coordinates dozens of GCA volunteers who use their paddling and river skills to guide paddlers through tricky sections of river during the trip, and prepares and presents a great safety briefing for the paddlers to let them know what to expect on the river.
In spite of his passion for safe boating, Vincent keeps things light and often hilarious. He’s quick to lend a helping hand and slow to antagonize – plus, we believe he should win the Nobel Peace Prize for coming up with the genius color-coded zip tie system we now use to keep the Paddle Georgia luggage organized rather than piled into a huge mound for the paddlers to sort through. Like Katherine Edmonds, Paddle Georgia boat mover extraordinaire likes to say, “Vincent is SOLID!”
Thanks, Vincent, for being our rock.