Regcreek (53K)

      Here's to the Hair Boaters!


There was a time I was fascinated by kayaking videos on You Tube and elsewhere on the Web. They were an easy way to mark time during the long winter, waiting for paddling season.

Piskahegan Stream, NB from Derek Bradford on Vimeo.

But now, I tend to scoff at the intrepid hair-boaters. The waterfall jumpers, the jungle trampers who look for the gnarliest drops and the highest cascades. Sure, it takes balls, courage that I don't have, especially now that I am much older.

But skill? Whimsy? I don't think so. Or at least, none that I can appreciate. They plunge into frothing cascades, not really seeing where they go once they are flailing in the aerated maelstrom, and celebrate ending somewhere downstream of the chaos and confusion.

Doug Doremus
Scooter on the White River, New Hampshire. He hasn't swum yet, but his time draws near!

And we don't see the failures ... the buddys who break their limbs or backs, or heck forbid, the mishaps where lives are lost. Yes, it does happen. If I watch enough of these waterfall-jumping vids, I might believe there is no 'downside' to the risks they are taking. Everyone in them ends up smiling, high-fiving, and geared up for the next precipitous plunge.

daredevil kayaker
Daredevil kayaker goes for the big drop,
somewhere in Idaho.

I once thought this was where I was going ... to tackle the rocky torrent, risking it all in my Spandex outfit and Dagger kayak, running rapids that would shrink the courage of most mortals. I was once on the fringe of this reality. I've smashed more than my share of canoes, and gone for unplanned swims on several streams near and far. But I'd like to think that's behind me now. No more swims, no matter what Scooter might say. Ha!

Mispec River
There is a hard-core group of skilled kayakers who run the steepest streams of New Brunswick, like the Mispec near Saint John.
Photo by Paul Hill.

Well sure, there are kayakers who love their boat, and enjoy river running too. I don't mean those folks. Let me back-paddle just a bit here, okay? I'm referring only to the extreme kayakers, the ones who plunge off the edges of cascades, pushing the limits of safety and common sense. Yes, the show-offs, there I've said it.

Jamie at Burnthill, Miramichi River
Jamie at Burnthill, Miramichi River

Give me the upland streams that flow smoothly and serenely between the pines and rocky banks, with rapids I can run, and grant me the wisdom to carry my boat around the stiff drops where the kayakers frolic, snapped and sealed in their plastic bullet-boats. To each his own, I say, let them have their fun. Especially since I am too stiff and awkward to fit into one of those streamlined vessels. I tried it once, maybe twice, and catapulted myself backwards into the water both times.

Lepreau Falls
Harold Cox leaps Lepreau Falls.
Pic by Nancy Clifford

So there is an element of jealousy in my rant, I'll admit. But I find I am more the quiet water and cozy campfire tripper now than ever. Who knows, maybe I'll go over to the dark side and take my fishing rod with me on my next trip. I'll enjoy the madcap kayaker antics vicariously on the shore and by the campfire. See ya there!

A country lake in the summer breeze

Meanderings

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