By Tom Sweets.
I was trip leader for the first time and was lucky enough to have AMAZING SUPPORT BOATERS!!! We had 16 students and we also had 11 support boaters! What a great ratio! Thank you very much to every support boater who gave up their Saturday to help this cadre of fledgling Ocoee Newbies.
We broke up into three groups, each with its own group leader and 2-3 other support boaters and all planned to meet at Slice N Dice with a backup plan of parking at Broken Nose and running the newbies down to Slice N Dice from the eddy below Broken Nose (newbies did not run broken nose). As it happened, there were already a few cars at Slice N Dice so two of the three groups put on below Broken Nose, and one group put on at Slice N Dice. My group put on below Broken Nose and made it to Slice N Dice without incident, as did Don’s group. Evidently, the only swim we had at Slice N Dice occurred when Ashley Teel came barreling into the play hole upside down and and caused one of our support boaters to swim!!! I haven’t confirmed this report but it sounded funny. Anyway, we only had 3 swims on the trip, and one was a support boater! Ha!
Moon Chute brought with it my group’s first combat roll and first swim. The swimmer, who will remain nameless, came up with a nasty laceraction below his right eye, but he wanted to fight on. Dr. Tom (myself), gave him permission, but I told him if he swam again I would pull him.
We all ran the Center Sneak/Center Chute at Broken Nose, and I don’t think anyone flipped there.
From there, we continued on through Hell’s 1/2 Mile uneventfully (at least uneventfully in my group!) and on to Double Trouble.
Double Trouble brought the third and FINAL swim of the sampler, which was the second swim from the young buck in my group with the laceration under his eye. True to my word, I pulled him. Luckily, Gail’s husband was tailing the group in his car and he offered to take our swimmer back. I waited with the swimmer’s boat at Double Trouble, and once he was safely packed up, I sped down to catch up with the group at Goforth.
Earlier in the day I had promised the newbies that if anyone wanted to run Goforth down to the takeout they could if, and only if, they did not swim. Out of 16 students we only had one that swam and at Goforth, only one that wanted to take off. The rest of the students (14) and all the support boaters continued on! Wow!
The experienced boaters ran safety down Tablesaw before the students did, but we didn’t need too! Despite at least 4 rolls (one from Don Fletcher), we had NO SWIMS! Even more remarkable, all the remaining students made it all the way down to the takeout without swimming!!! One group even stopped at Cat’s PJs to swim. Wow! What an impressive Ocoee Sampler! Out of 16 students we had only one swimmer and 14 students ran all the way from Slice N Dice to the takeout. Everybody in my group ran right through the meat of Hells Hole and I don’t think any of them so much as flipped over!!! It was VERY VERY impressive.
I had been anticipating a day full of rodeo roping swimmers, something like my day at paddle school 2 years ago when Rod, Ruthie, Jose and I had 10 swimmers between Slice N Dice and Goforth. I made sure all newbies had flotation and all the support boaters had ropes, but we didn’t need them! These students really impressed me. I’m sure they’ll all be paddling circles around me by spring.