Words By: Brandon Willms
As promised, we are sharing a series of blog posts this year from our new Aquabatics Ambassador Team. It is my pleasure to welcome, Danny Gariepy to the team. Danny has been passionate about pursuing whitewater since day one in a kayak and it has been awesome to watch this guy progress into an excellent paddler. I have been getting out with him on fun missions for years now. Just as cool though has been to watch his progression in visual media, as he started with as much gusto in producing quality imagery as he has for kayaking. So much so that he is making photography and especially videography pay the bills for him these days and we are stoked to have him on board to share his talent. (We also partnered with him because of his exquisite beard, to complement our recreational wizard with a whitewater wizard, but sadly he subsequently put the beard to bed.) Here is his first post, in a "moment in the life of" story telling style distinct to Danny. Enjoy!
First Days of Spring
Why was I so nervous? We had just been here the day before. The flows were the same and I had been feeling very comfortable in my boat. Now I sat, perched on a ledge, 12 feet above the churning brown water below me. Looking up stream I could see it angrily pouring around the corner, rapidly thundering through the narrow canyon. Looking over my shoulder I could see the horizon line that I was mentally preparing for. I reached down and checked the skirt around the rim of my cockpit and gave a few quick breaths, watching as the warm air from my lungs condensated into mist in the brisk air.
Sitting on seal launch ledge above Titan
Spring boating in the Alberta Rockies can be a mixed bag of weather. Two days earlier we had put onto Cataract Creek for the first time this season. We had been spoiled with above twenty degree weather, today it was 3 degrees and threatening to snow. Cataract creek is tucked away in a valley on the edge of Kananaskis Country just south west of Calgary. First explored by Stuart Smith, this creek is a classic for the Calgary area. Starting in a higher alpine valley, the first few kilometers of the run are uneventful but scenic. Eventually you work your way down to the first two features.
Sequence shot of Brandon on Titan.
Two waterfalls stacked on top of one another, Hercules and Titan. Hercules is an ugly affair. 15 feet high, the left forces you into an undercut while the right recirculates in a nast eddy that would threaten to push you behind the curtain of the falls. The only line is to shoot straight down the middle disappear into the boily turn-pot and hope you pop up with time to roll before you are pulled over Titan, sound fun? Hercules has only been run a handful of times by braver boaters than myself. Titan on the other hand is probably the most fun you can have on a twenty foot drop. The only catch is that the only way to run Titan without running Hercules, is to do a 10 ft seal launch from a small ledge twenty feet above the lip. This is where I sat now doing my best to coax myself off the lip.
Reaching down I grabbed my paddle and carefully started to scooch myself towards the edge. I could now see the brown water below the nose of my kayak, and I could feel my heart in my chest. Ensuring that I was balanced right on the tipping point I paused and took three slow deep breaths, a practice I had done before every rapid since I ran my first waterfall. As soon as I had finished my final breath I gave myself a good shove off the edge.
Tom Stewart on Titan.
A split moment of free fall and I hit the water, the boat dipped below the surface before resurfacing. Straight ahead of me water poured over Titans horizon line. On river left just above the lip there is a small eddie you can catch to set up your line. Feeling confident I dismissed the eddie and paddled towards the lip. Looking down over the ledge I could see everyone sitting in the pool below. At this point there is no fear, all of that was left on the ledge above me. I believe this is one of the best parts of boating, while paddling a rapid you are purely focussed on the task at hand. I planted my boof stroke and gently pulled on my paddle as my boat passed over the lip. Falling towards the pool below I leaned forward and braced to hit the water.
Spencer at the lip of Titan looking up from the pool below.
Several minutes later we paddled out of the pool at the bottom to finish the rest of the run. I don’t think I’ll ever stop being nervous above rapids, but I guess that’s part of what makes me love paddling.