|Feather River College||
It’s a beautiful sunny day out here on the Feather River. Day two in a whitewater kayak for a classmate and myself. We’ve practiced our rolls, learned some technique, and the big test is in a few river bends. The infamous “Paxton's Ledge” followed by the “Room of Doom.” Doesn’t sound so scary right? Well sure, it’s not so scary when you're floating high above the water in a huge raft. When your center of gravity is taken down to whitewater kayak level, things change. A small three foot wave, which is nothing for a raft to go over, now becomes something that resembles a tsunami wave.
I take on Paxton’s ledge with Lauren Tango behind me. I run the short drop, stay upright and continue on my way. As I try to catch an eddy, the eddy monster grabs my boat and takes me under. While I am under the water, Tango decides she also has to stick her head in this low oxygen environment. Us girls have to stick together. Her boyfriend Chase is so appalled at the scene he paddles up close to her and dives under the water saying something like “I can’t watch this!” One by one, we all pop back up. Us girls are out of our boats and draining them of water, while Chase is making sure his girlfriend knew she wasn’t alone down there. Everyone has a strange, giant smile on their face. How could we all be happy after every one of us went face in, upside down, and spun in circles under the water surface?
We’ve all been there. The feeling that we can’t breathe, the panic setting in, lungs full of our “last breath”. However, not many can say they have felt this while stuck inside a plastic death tube with water rushing up their nose and into their ears. Some might call these plastic death tubes white water kayaks. Those who have been there…this is for you.
For one reason or another all of our efforts of staying upright have failed, and we are now experiencing the world from a whole new angle. An upside down angle. Here’s some advice. Keep your head tucked to your chest and your chest pressed against the top of the boat. Unless you're looking for the river to rearrange the way your face looks, keep that head tucked! Don’t worry, the big rocks will just hit your helmet...really...really hard. But your face will stay just as pretty as it was when you started. Hopefully you can set up for your roll with ease. However, most of the time, the river has a different plan for you. It’s not just going to let you have an easy time. Why should it, right? Now, here's the fun part. You're going to try to combat roll. If this is your first time attempting this, just breathe! Metaphorically of course, because there's very little oxygen down there despite the fact that water is essentially H2O (O for oxygen? More like O for Oh my god I’m dying). The water that has now entered the inside of your brain through your nasal passages is making you think “Get your head the heck out of this place now!” But you actually have to wait. And keep waiting. Every part of your body has the privilege of coming out of the water before your head gets to. Meaning that hopefully before you ended up upside down in a hole you took a good deep breath of air instead of shouting your favorite profanity. This is because if you're a beginner there is a good chance that you will miss your first roll trying to get your head up first. You’ll get one quick glimpse of the outside world and BAM! Water is going up your nose again, and oxygen is nowhere to be found.
So, now your head is tucked, you are set up, your arms sweep your paddle across the water, you snap your hips, and you keep your head down until it naturally rolls up and out of the water. A lot to think about, right? If done correctly, however, the reward is sweet...sweet oxygen. Your first breath is like nothing you’ve ever experienced before. Suddenly the world makes sense again, and for some strange reason, you have the urge to stay inside that plastic death tube. The worst part is, you actually begin to like it.
-Written by Lauren Huseby