I am two months into my program and going strong. Adapting to life in Vancouver is interesting, I wouldn’t normally choose to live in a big city like this. Even though I could write a column about that on its own, I will just note that I appreciate the proximity to both the mountains and the ocean. Also that I think it’s weird people line up single file for the bus. If I had taken this program in a different city, the opportunities wouldn’t be so vast, and I wouldn’t have fallen in love … with kayaking. The adventures my classmates and I embarked on in the last month were so righteous. We have become a unit and every single person was challenged. Not only are we learning new things about ourselves, we are having a blast doing it.
Our first major adventure started far before the sun came up on October 16th. We were geared up and on the road before you were drinking your steaming hot cup of morning coffee. We weren’t even out of the gate before we hit our first obstacle; one of our classmates forgot to bring her entire bag of food. Oops. The shuttle bus, if not driven by Burnaby Tours & Charters founder and our very own business teacher Rami, would have gotten us there on good vibes and excitement emanating from everyone on board. A little bit of Backstreet Boys and Starbucks was all we needed to stoke us up for this trip.
The forecast was not in our favour and it was raining when we got there. Straight away we were suited up with wet suits, booties, helmets, life jackets, and paddles. Our very kooky and super experienced guide/owner/operator drove us to the river in a big white school bus. His name was Rusty, but if you didn’t know him any better you would call him Steve Martin and tell him you loved him in Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. The river was flowing hard, and we almost immediately lost a classmate when when he didn’t let go of the handle during the launch. I watched him stumble his way down the rocks toward the water. Once his resting rate returned to normal the 12 of us hopped into two boats and with Rusty, a full grown man in a Batman onesie, and a safety kayaker. Then, we went for it. Rusty was yelling instructions at us “FRONT, BACK”, and he would yell again “FORWARD, STOP”. Water splashed our faces as we went down this massive river in an over sized blowup boat. I was enjoying myself to the fullest! It was a rush. Near the end of the raft Rusty told us we are all going for a swim in the river. I wasn’t sure if he was joking or not, you never could tell with him. He wasn’t. Probably not many of the class reveled in the idea of jumping into was was likely a glacial river in the middle of October, but I’m not afraid of a good time. We were to jump into this river, and swim down to where the safety kayaker was waiting with the other raft. When I jumped in, the cold water shocked my body and I tried unsuccessfully to catch my breath. My custom made booty (or was it 6 sizes to big?) came right off my foot. I stuck my sock in the air and pointed at my foot. Rusty yelled at me, “GET THAT SHOE!”. I think he scared me because all of a sudden retrieving that booty was the most important thing ever. It reminded me of a time in Alberta when I jumped off a 50 foot cliff to retrieve a full can of beer that fell out of someone’s hand. I got the beer, I got the shoe, and the rocks got me. I was too distracted to see them until I slammed into them. I wasn’t hurt. Much. After I was in the raft I watched about 5 booties float down the river. The only ones that were lost were Sarah’s, but what she lacked in food and footwear, she made up for in spirit. All of us stuffed into the wood stove sauna afterward and filled that thing up. We were wet, cold, hungry, but most of us were pretty stoked. We hadn’t even set up our tents yet.
Day two was relentless with the weather. We had some extra tarps and clustered our tents underneath them. Up and at it for 9:00am, we went to Cultis Lake to practice strokes. This was the toughest part of the whole trip just because of how cold it was. For a few minutes there I was utterly miserable, even though I liked learning the technique. From our boat we could see the other half of our team near shore flipping rafts and swimming in the water. It was horrifying knowing that I was going in that water next. The funny thing about it is that by the time I flipped the raft and climbed back in, I was actually warm. It is a wonderment the time people spend dreading something versus the time they dread doing it. It was fun. Plus, those who were able to flip the rubber kayak and get back in (called a scramble) were able to go river kayaking in the afternoon. You want to hear about a good time? River. Kayaking. This is where the trip heated up for me (figuratively speaking). After a bite to eat and a little trip to the sauna, four of us went kayaking with a very experienced and talented young kayaker. It was at this point we learned to read the river and see things we wouldn’t have known how to look for before, like eddies and holes. It’s a good thing to notice a hazard before you see it, like a hole that can suck you in, or a rock when retrieving a booty. I laughed out loud going down huge rapids, not knowing if I was going to spill or not and I felt in that moment a total connect with myself. I can always hear my mother in my uncontrollable laughter and I definitely recognize this person. It is the person I become when I am having a blast, doing sports I love, and chasing the thrill.
That evening our class gathered in the cabin and got the stove going. We were encouraged to burn all the wood we could, and we did. We stayed up late laughing, sharing food, and telling jokes. It’s wonderful to watch my team endure and progress through challenges.
The next day was my absolute favorite. I was up early, and was extra pumped up. A part of me knew it was going to be a great day. Being so cold on the water the day before, not everyone made it out. We had one boat and two guides (Batman was a minion today). The water was brilliant! I was sitting at the front of the boat and the rapids were simply huge. We were airborne, paddling hard, hitting huge waves and cheering. The water was spraying us and the laughing went from uncontrollable to maniacal. Very surely everyone thought I had lost my mind. At any time I could have been thrown from the raft and the euphoria from the risk was real. At one point one of our guides, a very overgrown and bearded minion, hopped out and left Willy Wonka in charge. He prepared us for possibly, and even likely, an ejection. He actually made me nervous as he led us through the momentarily calm water singing:
There’s no earthly way of knowing,
Which direction we are going,
There’s no knowing where we’re rowing,
Or which way the rivers flowing …
Get the Willy Wonka reference? YouTube it.
Then BAM! We are in the thick of it and Willy is yelling at us “HARD, NOW!!!” And “BACK, BACK” slight pause “FORWARD!!!”. Each second we fought with the last of our remaining strength to combat the rapids and listened to his instruction. “TOGETHER!!, LEFT ONLY”. Water was in all of our faces and it reminded me of a pirate ship. Just then as quickly as it started, it was over and the madman pirate captain faded back into a smiling a quirky guy who then apologized for yelling at us. The next day we went rafting again and had a huge lunch supplied to us before heading back on the Charter bus. On the way back we were tired, and the first time in four days, warm.
Before my hair even dried I was packing again for another adventure, things got really interesting for me here …
More to come! Stay tuned for part two of Breeze’s blog!