Sunday, March 17, 2013

Upsteam with a good paddle

Saturday Cecile and I joined son Garrett at the Missouri Whitewater Championships near Farmington.  Missouri isn't exactly known for it's towering mountains and crashing streams, but for a few miles on the St. Francis River in the southeast corner of the state, the rapids are rough enough to challenge expert paddlers.

Now you see him, now you don't
Garrett at the ready

To the rescue on the St. Francis
Garrett took up kayaking a few years ago and had become an impressive figure on the foam.  He now shuns the actual races and serves as a safety boater.  He finds an eddy where his kayak will hover magically while the big water roars past him.  He waits until another kayaker overturns or otherwise gets into trouble, then either fires out is "throw-bag" rescue rope or digs deep and paddles out to help.

There are safety boaters every few yards down the river during a race.  That doesn't keep your breath from going away when a boat disappears into the white and only its bottom reappears.  Generally, the unlucky competitor uses his or her paddle to pry themselves upright.  Others pop the rubber seal from around their waists and "swim."  No kayaker likes to admit he "had to swim."

I'd love to dip a paddle, but I'm not sure I'm up to -- or was ever up to -- tackling the torrents.  In the meantime, I'll watch Garrett anytime -- and I'll bet others are glad he's watching them.

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