I found myself back in the South East this fall! Between the changing colors of all the leaves, Gauley season in West Virginia, Russell Fork and Green Race, September and October were non-stop filled with excitement for the season, tons of paddling, and long road trips.
A couple of friends and I drove from California out to West Virginia, for Gauley season (I actually got a sweet deal out of it- they drove from Cali to WV, and I got to join Anna, GAP, and Canyons for a Main Salmon trip in Idaho! So as they drove, I had some amazing and much needed girl time, got on an airplane at the end of our Main trip, and then my friends picked me up in WV). All three of us were able to find work as Video Boaters for Gauley Season. We worked Saturdays and Sundays, and then went other places to paddle during the week! One week we went to the Great Falls of the Potomac and explored DC, another week we went to the Upper Yough, another week we went up to Canada and paddled the Ottawa and Gatineau. So much driving… But also so much paddling!
I was excited to race in a couple of races- The Animal Race on the Upper Gauley, and the Russell Fork Race. I got first at the Animal Race, and then third- out of three – at the Russell Fork race!
There are so many highlights from this trip, but if I had to pick one- It wasn’t the big water on the Ottawa, or the awesome waterfalls at Great Falls, or even racing… It was at the top of a rapid called El Horrendo on the Russell Fork.
My friend, Melissa, had just swam in the rapid before, and she was obviously replaying it in her mind. Not moving forward, holding onto and regretting what had just happened. All of the guys that we were paddling with bolted down stream, and I read on Mel’s face- that she was scared, she thought that everyone left her, she felt rushed, she didn’t want to swim again, and she was doubting her abilities.
I peeled into the eddy next to her, and was able to talk through things with her. I told her that swimming is a part of kayaking- we’re all in between swims, it doesn’t matter who we are. When she was ready, we talked about the rapid, the line, and I told her that she could watch my line and do exactly what I did.
This was a really cool moment for me, especially after these couple of months. I’ve been paddling with a lot of really great paddlers, on some hard runs, and I’ve definitely felt like I’ve been the weakest one in the bunch. Which isn’t a bad thing; I’ve been learning, growing, pushing myself, and have been having a lot of fun. But with those great days, I have had bad days, too. All of the emotions that I saw on Melissa’s face, I’ve felt. It felt really good to be a solid girl on the water that was there to help another lady friend out! This experience reminded me that we all feel successful when we support one another and paddle together – all in it together!
I’m now on my way back to California (another long drive) to then board a plane and fly to the Zambezi! Look for my next blog post about paddling big water in Africa!