What We’ve Learned So Far …
by Veronica Crosier
Week two of raft guide training has rolled around and somehow we’ve managed to end up with more trainees than we had on day one. Thirty-seven of us pile onto the bus to the river for a double run on the Lower New River.
By this point, we all know what the most dangerous features are in the river. We’ve scouted rapids, stared as deeply as safety allowed into swirling hydraulics, and of course listened to the countless horror stories and warnings from our trainers.
Sometimes, though, that the best way to send a message home is to learn firsthand. Luckily for us, we’re just novice enough to find ourselves in plenty of learning situations.
Today our boat ran what is known as the Mouth Wave, a giant crashing wave located in Middle Keeney (the first serious white water of the day) that is sure to send a few people swimming and just as likely to flip an entire boat. Fortunately we all saw it coming. We had a few seconds to brace ourselves and cross our fingers. Our boat then had a few seconds to spin completely backwards. Just fabulous.
We felt the boat begin to climb the wave and the moment reminded me of when one is watching a horror movie and quickly closes one’s eyes in hopes not to see whatever scary thing comes next even though all the sounds are still audible and one generally ends up with a clear idea of what happened anyway.
We hit the Mouth Wave. Although we’re backwards, our guide-in-training has managed to square our boat on the wave so at least there is hope that we may not completely flip. After a few seconds of bracing, we make it to the other side. Most of us do, anyway. Looking to the right, we see a swimmer from our boat. He’s close enough that we can also see the look of panic on his face.
Impressively, we manage to keep our cool. One T-grip is extended to him. The rest of us continue paddling and our guide continues giving commands. With some quick thinking, we get our man back in the boat and finish our trip. By the time we’re on the bus back to ACE, we’re already joking about it. But it’s safe to say we all have a new respect for Mouth Wave, and probably the New River in general, because now we know what it’s all about firsthand.
Kudos to our guide for making the best out of a bad situation.
Lesson of the Day: Backwards is an angle.