By Meryl Stark.
Photos by Stacy Stone.
“Follow me! We’re going to do something AWESOME!” That’s what I said to Ali and Cat before attempting to take them down the S-turn boof at the top of Slice & Dice. After helping with a swimmer at Broken Nose, we all felt on our A-Game and were ready to style!
Paddling with a group of women is just a different experience. TVCC’s commitment to hosting events like the Ladies Ocoee Paddle is just wonderful, whitewater is still a male-dominated sport.
Several of the women in the group expressed how much more comfortable and empowered they felt on the water with a group of just women supporting each other out there. Everyone in the group had different goals for the day, but most of us just wanted to have fun and try new things.
I’d say I accomplished that, but not quite like I expected.
As I approached where I wanted to lead Ali and Cat down, my line wasn’t the best, and I slid off the wrong side of the rock I was supposed to boof. At full speed. And managed to “vertically” (well, more like 45 degree) pin, wedging the bow of my boat into a pile of shallow rocks. Oops. That was a new line…
I stayed calm to assess the situation. I was very stable, my head (and body and most of my boat) were above water, and there was a nearby rock that I could step out on. Ali and Lesley were in the eddy formed by the rock I was stuck on, ready to assist. Lesley was downstream safety, and Ali took my paddle. Now, I was able to pop off my skirt, step out of the boat, unwedge it from the rocks, and reenter. What could have been a scary situation was just a minor inconvenience thanks to our awesome team and all the rescue training we’ve had. Girl Power!
Later in the day, the action picked up again. Approaching Tablesaw, we saw probably the most interesting rivercraft ever – an inflatable couch anchored on two paddleboards with at least 4 passengers. What a fun time — you never know what you’ll see on the river!
I set up at the bottom of Tablesaw for safety and ended up chasing a swimmer’s paddle through Diamond Splitter. I hiked the paddle back up, and coaxed a Shredder over from across the river to give me a ride downstream to my boat. I thought I would be a passenger, but instead, I was asked to paddle while the original paddler took a seat in the middle. It was clutch, but we made the ferry. That was a bit of excitement I hadn’t expected!
The rest of the trip went without incident – everyone styled it and tried all kinds of new lines.
There is nothing better than a fall day on the Ocoee, especially when you get to spend it with a group of talented TVCC Ladies teaching and supporting each other on the water. Thanks to Stacy Stone for organizing this awesome event 2 years in a row, and of course, taking some fantastic photos!