On Sunday I drove down to Saluda, NC to check out the level on the Green River. I have not been on the Green much this summer, but I knew the water would be low. The infamous Green Race is almost upon us, and it promises to be an interesting year. The 2006 race brought out record numbers of racers, and swimmers.
I have raced in a Prijon T Canyon for the last several years, but on Sunday I borrowed a friend's Tornado. The T Canyon is fast, but incredibly unforgiving. I thought it would be smart to paddle the Tornado instead.
I was nervous about Gorilla, but I have run it hundreds of times at many different water levels. I usually run the far right shelf when the water is really low, but yesterday I decided to go for the middle boof. The word in the parking lot was that it was still dangerously low, but not as bony as it had been earlier in the summer.
I was having a great day in the Tornado, and stopped above Chiefs to discuss the plan with Caleb Coaplen. I decided to run the race line. I ended up with too much right angle coming out of the Notch. I corrected with a left draw and tried to power my way over the Launch Pad. My recollection of the event is hazy, but I believe that I pierced the breaking wave at the pad and pitoned the rock that forms it. The piton killed my momentum and I came to a complete stop at the top of Gorilla. I knew I was in serious trouble so I tucked and braced for a big impact. The huge kayak pitoned (or glanced off the rocks) in the flume below Gorilla. I immediately flipped. Flipping at the bottom of this rapid is unacceptable at low water. I felt blows coming at me from all directions. I took the biggest hits I have taken in years right on my head and thoracic spine. Finally, the impacts stopped.
I rolled up in a daze just in time to see Caleb clean the landing. Some people were portaging and ran over when they heard me hit. I could not even answer them when they asked if I was okay.
I have been thinking about this incident all day today. I got lucky. I have a large abrasion directly over my 1st thoracic vertebrae. My spine could have been damaged. I could have been knocked unconscious. I should have walked the rapid or run my usual low water line, but I let pre-race enthusiasm get the best of me. Unless the river comes up between now and race day, I will not be racing this year. I will be at the Russell Fork Race this Saturday and I know it will be tons of fun, as it always is.
I will miss racing the Green this year, but I can not justify the risk of paddling hard through bony class V+ whitewater. If it is not fun, what's the point?
This was the first bad impact I have taken since using WRSI helmets, and it may have saved my life. Thanks WRSI.