Saturday, January 31, 2009

Sink, Style, Swim, STICK

An hour before I ran the Trancura I was sitting at a restaurant in Pucon and I got an email from Will. Out of everyone I’ve ever paddled with, I trust Will the most. There are many reasons why this is the way it is. He knew I was about to run my first class four river, and he reminded me to run a rapid to challenge myself and walk a rapid to humble myself. He also told me that he was leaving to paddle the Rusell Fork in Kentucky that afternoon. Will and I paddled that river together back in October and I ran the whole thing on my head. He wrote: “I’ll think about you as I paddle, going over, rolling up, going over, missing the roll, hitting the roll, coming up smiling.”

The Upper Trancura is our home run: we put in about 8 miles down the river and a few steps away from our base. When we got to the first class 4 rapid we dragged our boats up to the island to scout. It was long, big, and rocky with two ledge drops. The line, however, looked deceptively straight. “Follow the main current, then eek left.” Eli directed me. “Just make sure you go left at the ledge. Stay upright down the middle, then head left.” Some were walking. I decided to run it. I told David I was going to run it. “I’m glad you’re going to run it,” he told me. “Make sure you stay left at the ledge. Go left, go left, go left.”

I went right.

I didn’t mean to go right. It was my intention to go left. But I got lost in all that white and rock, and by the time I realized I should really get left, I was already at the lip of the ledge. I looked down and saw a big growling hole of white foam and a rock wall that it would spit me towards. I thought ‘I should go left.’ But it was too late to go left. So I squared up and hit it straight on. Eli told me later that he watched me go into the hole and that I looked quite calm and drove myself in with intention. Besides having gone off track, I punched the hole and did everything right. I wish I had done everything left.

Because the hole got me immediately and pulled me down. That’s alright, I figured, I’ll just roll up. I pushed my paddle out of the water and set up. Then BANG I hit flew into something and could feel I was jammed into a corner under water, my head was introduced rather forcefully to some rocks and my paddle was ripped away. I thought, looks like I’m swimming with all the kids watching. The second the top of my helmet resurfaced Coach Tino was THERE. Standing on the rock wall that I was caught against, one hand on my boat, one hand on my paddle, one hand on me and one hand banging on his helmet. Or so it appeared. A throw bag appeared out of nowhere from someone else. I wrestled/was wrestled out of the water and was able to see how far off course I’d gotten. I couldn’t possibly get back into the current unless I walked down to an eddy down below. Isaac, sitting on the other side with his video camera, was laughing. The students waiting down river were all cheering, smiling and banging on their helmets: was I okay? I raised my arms in glory, was I okay? Hell, I went RIGHT! I just swam my first class 4 and the safety system that got me out was immediate and flawless. Onward. The second maybe-walk maybe-run rapid is a big ten foot drop. The river is crushed through a smaller passage and then divided into two waterfalls. At the bottom of the falls the two currents combine in a swirling pile of foam. There is a lot lot lot of water to contend with. Eli said follow the green tongue, edge to the left of the boof rock and plug it. I decide I want to run it. I tell El, “I want to run it.” He says, “So Run it.” So I got into my boat, my little star, and wobble out from the eddy line. I see the rooster tail, head to the left, and zoom....POW! I was suddenly underwater and felt a big impact around me…I’m getting whipped around, my face is getting hit by my braids, my nose plugs, everything is swirling white. I need to roll up, so I push my paddle to the surface but there is no surface…I must have been pushed pretty deep. Then I feel some air with my knuckles and snap up hard. I am away from the base of the falls, I can hear everyone cheering for me from above. I’m so very pleased with myself that I leaned back and raised my paddle in victory and that’s when I realized I was sinking, because my skirt imploded. I thought very clearly, All that time I had with Tyler’s reinforced Armortex implosion bar skirts, I should have taken one when I had the chance! So the boat filled up with water and sinks down and now I was swimming, the current was grabbing me and was taking me back towards the base of the falls. I grab at a stick with one hand but soon the current has pulled me away from it. I claw at the slippery stone wall, thinking ‘you’re a rock climber, remember? Concentrate on holding on to this stone, CONCENTRATE’ no sooner did I have that thought than David was reaching for me, grasping my hand and and pulling me out....

How many booties do I need to drink? One for the swim? Trop swam in the same place. But for the imploded skirt? I don't think so, I rolled up! Anyway my thoughts are scattered but I'd like to thank Tino and Dave for rescuing me. That was fun now on to more and more rivers, more more more....

1 comment:

Zoey said...

Melina, aren't you supposed to be teaching english and not acting dangerously in foreign waters?
confused and worried