Yeah, yeah – It’s the “Nolichucky”. But it’s also a “ham sandwich” and not a “hem sendwich”. These are the stupid things that run through my head daily. I’m definitely not right in the head. I’ve always wished I could plug a cord into my brain and let people see and hear what runs through there.

Nolichucky River – Erwin, TN

I’ve always been the sort of guy to just go out and attempt to do things on my own. I don’t seek training, professional advice, classes or certification; much to my detriment. I consider myself wildly independent; which is a two-edged sword. I enjoy being alone. I enjoy solitude. I enjoy spending time thinking to myself and talking to God. On the other hand, there are times where I long for community and companionship.

I learned to surf by buying a board, going out there and paddling into waves. I learned Photoshop and video editing by grabbing the mouse and clicking away. I just do, typically without much thought.

I have owned several kayaks in the past few years, most of them in Alabama. I have only ever been in calm lakes and slow moving, muddy backwaters. I moved to Johnson City, Tennessee with the aim of getting out and exploring more, and with the idea that I had to get out on some white water. I grabbed an older Perception Pro-Line whitewater boat off of craigslist recently and figured I’d just hop in the water, no problem. As my zeal waned, I started to think about the logistics of this notion of going it alone. How would I get picked up or dropped off? How would I even know where to launch and get out from? What if I got into trouble? I had watched enough whitewater rescue videos online, that I knew it wasn’t safe to go it alone.

I met this guy at a local church I affiliate with who told me about a kayaking group he was involved in. We have never hung out, nor seen each other since, but he linked me up with a contact and that person introduced me to the group. This is one of the few times I am so glad that I didn’t try to tackle this adventure alone. I had no idea how awesome and dangerous white water kayaking can be.

My first day of pool training.

So the group I was introduced to is a veteran’s group. If you know me, you know I don’t really like to be associated with veterans. Maybe I will write about that one day and explain why. The group is called Team River Runners, and they offer a truly valuable service. Even though I have my own kayaking gear (which is well used and kind of crusty), they provide everything to those in need free of charge! The skirt I bought used doesn’t fit me. My PFD is more of a 1960’s The Parent Trap summer camp life vest than an actual white water, river-running vest. This group has all the gear you need, and they charge nothing! I even used their boat to train in, so I didn’t need to ferry mine. How about that!

I arrived late to the party; their last pool session before the summer season and subsequent move to the river. They graciously accepted me into the fold and gave me a quick crash course. My first lesson was on wet-exiting in case of a rollover. This is a procedure I have become all too familiar with! You must complete this procedure before being allowed on the river with them.

So, yesterday was my first day out on the river, and boy was I in for a surprise! I have white water rafted several times, no sweat. Kayaking, by yourself, is a completely different animal. You are at the mercy of the current. The feeling of being swept by the current is magical. It’s so much more powerful than you could ever imagine. It doesn’t look fast or powerful… until you’re out there paddling in it! They kept us noobs in one spot of the river, and we got to play at the base of a class II rapid. What an experience!

At the base of a class II rapid

The flow of the river is mighty. it’s powerful. It’s awe-inspiring! The current carries you where it wills. You can only manage the situation, you cannot control it. I have found a new respect for God’s awesome creation. “And, behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east: and his voice was like a noise of many waters” -Ezekiel 43:2

Draining the boat

I cannot wait to get more proficient and explore more dangerous waters, however, this is one time I am not ashamed of taking my time and waiting for proper instruction. I implore you to get proper training before trying this sport out. Find a group of seasoned professionals to teach you, to watch over you, because the river is a mighty opponent. I found myself upside down numerous times, still unable to right my capsized boat; something that look so easy in videos online.

Check out Team River Runner’s site. They may have a chapter in your area. I highly recommend them! Until next time, Ciao!