This is a story about whitewater. After historic snowfall in the Tetons last winter, Michael Tavares and myself loaded roof racks with an array of boards, coolers with ample La Croix, and drove north.
Jackson, Wyoming is known as one of the most desirable places to play in the west. The sheer amount of sprinter vans parked in quiet nooks around town was a sure sign that people were there to get after it. We were chasing the famed "Lunch Counter" on the Snake River, one of the most frequented natural occurring river surf waves in the country. It turned out that high water season was still in full force, and Lunch Counter was no surf wave, but it was a spectacle to behold.
There were of a handful of commercial raft trips out that day, but not many private boaters, and definitely no stand up paddlers. Between the conversations at the boat ramp and the local bar, Mike and I were convinced there was no one else stand up paddling the Snake at these flows. We were surprised, but then it dawned on us, as it does on occasion, that we are the exception. This sport, however poised it is for growth and development, is still in it's infancy. We are literally writing the book.
As we approached Lunch Counter, I cued Mike in on what I saw during a quick scout earlier in the day. A green ribbon of water, pulsing through the center-left portion of the large wave. That was our initial line, and after that it was every man for himself. I took the lead, and Mike followed, running the rapid without seeing it first. A testament to his unwavering confidence in whitewater, and our shared trust in one and others decision making abilities.
The first wave stood up into a house-sized monster, crashing and changing it's appearance every few seconds. Following were a series of hay-stacked waves, with strong laterals coming from both sides. Near the bottom of the rapid there were multiple large whirlpools, eagerly awaiting swimmers.
We paddled into the monster, smiling and stoked, this was our version of getting after it. What happened next I will leave with the Snake River, but I will leave you with this;
Paddling through rapids this large demands complete mental ,physical, and spiritual presence. It's a full on, certified flow state. The mind is a blank canvas, and operates solely for the purpose of committing to the task at hand. The soul is vibrating at the frequency of the river, and the body is stable, strong, and precise in it's movements.
You may stick your line and punch through the crux move with ease, or you may find yourself struggling for a breath of air before a whirlpool pulls you back to the bottom of the river. Either way, there is always an opportunity to do so more gracefully.
This is a story about whitewater, and I encourage you to join the movement. Experience the joy, the humility, and the redemption for yourself.