Making the Transition by TeamERA Jess Snyder

Everyone is searching for something in life. For me, faith has been my holy grail. I have been trying to find faith in something my whole life. My destination was reached when I stumbled my way into Endless River Adventures and began my journey into the wild world of whitewater. This is a short piece about how I made the transition from someone who whitewater kayaks to a real boater. You mayask what the difference is, well in my opinion, it is the state of mind one is in when they are in their boat.

When I began the sport last May, I became instantly addicted. All my life I’ve been somewhat of an adrenaline junkie. I’ve also been a fish since I can remember. So combine water with swirly twirly speed and add in some big hard challenging obstacles for fun you have the recipe for a good time. Kayaking may be the most fun sport I’ve ever done, but it is by far the most challenging and unpredictable.

Because I was kayaking so much last summer and was told that I was doing well, I walked around with a false sense of “boaterness”. Sure I’d paddled a couple bigger rivers than the Nantahala, including the Middle Ocoee, the New (at low water), and the lower Yough, but I was a poser. I was the shell of a boater. I loved the sport and I was ok at it, but something was missing. That something was faith in myself.

I remember the day of my epiphany. After having a very rough start to the summer (I tell people all the scratches in my helmet are from being upside down; not true) I was on the Ocoee with my friend Danny. We were coming up to Broken Nose and I was making my move to catch the top right eddy when a wave came up and hit me full in the face, forcing me to close my eyes. When they opened the eddy was passing by…oops.

Danny had run the rapid up ahead of me and was sitting down at the bottom. Now the only time I had tried to run this rapid this summer I ended up pushed into some rocks on the right side and had to walk the last half of the rapid. But I had missed the eddy and had no choice but to run the rapid. I just started paddling and caught the lateral wave and thought to myself “WEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!”, paddled over the first ledge, then the second and finished in the eddy on the bottom right. I looked at Danny with wide eyes and shouted with amazement “THAT’S THE FIRST TIME I’VE RUN THAT CLEAN!” With which he replied, “yeah that’s just great.”

We paddled down to Slice and Dice. Now I was not big on playboating at first. The idea of intentionally flipping upside down in front of a bunch of people freaked me out. I could roll, but I was not confident of that fact whatsoever. But this day, I was feeling great! I waited patiently in line, paddled up to the hole, surfed for a bit and was flipped upside down. In a split second I was right side up. And it was in that moment, when I saw the sunshine and breathed in oxygen as my boat righted itself that I was filled with the boating spirit. It was like a light switch. My fear of flipping over was gone. In its place was a feeling of confidence and faith. This was what had been missing before.

A lot of people I paddle with have told me they admire my fearlessness. What they don’t know is that when I come up to something big, I’m terrified. But after the emergence of my self-faith, I know that if something does go wrong that I will probably be ok. I have faith that I can run what is in front of me. Because of this epiphany, I was able to accomplish my goal this summer; running the Cheoah.

Now I did have a swim on this river. It was in a pretty forgiving spot not too far downstream. I had been stressed out all morning about the river and got stuck in a hole and pulled the skirt after several failed attempts to roll. But when I had to stand beside shore while boaters went by asking me if I was ok, I had the conviction that I was NOT going to swim again that day. And I did not. I was still scared out of my mind but my faith had returned stronger than ever.

My new motto: BRING ON THE GNAR!!