Labor Day Yough Trip
By Chris Russell
With the promise of good weather, a small group of COP paddlers headed to the Lower Yough for an impromptu Labor Day paddle. Veteran boaters Larry Krall, Gina Schmidt and I were joined by recent Kayak II graduate Shawn Duffy. We rounded out the group with former Columbus resident and one time COP boater Mike Maloney along with two unsuspecting neophytes. Beyond fun and frivolity, Larry and I needed to reintroduce ourselves to paddling the whitewater tandem kayak and get some serious roll practice in. Water releases on the Gauley River would soon begin and we did not want a repeat of last year's crash, curse and swim fiascos.
Day 1: It all started so well. Larry and I in the tandem with Larry in the captain's seat. Mike and his neophyte friend were in yet another tandem. Gina and Shawn showing Larry's neophyte friend Baylee the easy and safe lines down the Class 3 Lower Yough in her inflatable kayak. The weather was perfect; Baylee's lines were not. Approaching each of the major rapids in the first section of the river, Baylee's eyes would stray from Gina and Shawn’s safe lines and instead look at the looming dangers ahead. Common boating wisdom is to keep your eyes on where you want to go. Inexperienced boaters tend to look at what frightens them and insure themselves a better view of the danger and a dunking to boot. Larry, who had hitched a ride to the river with Baylee, came to the conclusion that his ride back to Columbus hinged on his friend finding another way down the river. Larry took the inflatable kayak and Baylee got a safe ride down the river with me in the tandem. So much for the tandem practice that Larry and I needed for the upcoming Gauley season.
Day 2: Baylee was safe and off the river. Gina and Shawn were ready for another day of adventure. Mike's friend had gone back to school and he was paddling solo. Larry and I were finally going to get the tandem practice we needed. So we headed down river, surfed a few waves and made it easily through the first two rapids. Then the fun began. We decided to practice a roll in flatwater. Proper paddle placement, a hip snap with the head down and we would be up and breathing fresh air after flipping the boat over. So we gave it a go and all we managed to do was get wet and scare the fish. After several more attempts we also managed to point fingers and place blame. We are currently considering couples counseling. Our wives will probably endorse this plan.