I remember my first time on the Gauley River- as I think most boaters do. A NARR veteran- Jason Swan was my “trainer”. Within minutes of being on the Upper Gauley with a boat full of experienced guides (yet all new to the Gauley), Jason asks, “Who wants to guide?” At the time I was in my eighth year guiding and was no rookie to how the game works. If you want trips, you better step up before someone else does. So, with confidence in my voice I said, “I do”. I couldn’t tell you much about our lines that day, but I can tell you I remember a few key things about my first day on the Gauley River:
- WHITEWATER with big, splashy waves was such a treat after years of western boating (of course spring is great out West, but after June it generally gets really low and becomes more about technical rock dodging than wave crashing).
- I had picked the right company to work for in WV. The NARR family was tight and it showed on the water. This means a lot once you start guiding bigger, more challenging whitewater. It’s good to be with people who watch your back and know how each other boat.
- “The Show” at Sweet’s Falls was incredible. 100+ people cheering and clapping- in all my years around whitewater- I’ve never seen such a whitewater audience. It’s an energetic place and hard to ever forget.
- The western style whitewater swim position of lying on your back with your feet downstream was out! On the Gauley if you fall out of the raft, you swim back. Practical use of common sense, I like this place.
- Pillow Rapid is without a doubt one of the most FUN rapids on Earth!
My list of things I’ll never forget about my first time on the Gauley River continues on, but I will keep it short. Really the point is the Gauley River has a lot of hype- it really does. BUT, the Gauley doesn’t disappoint anyone that really gets whitewater. It’s a respected river and fully deserves all the respect it gets, but the Gauley has a vibe and fun quality few class V rivers posses. It’s hard to argue that it may not be the most fun class V whitewater on the planet!