Fear On the Cape Fear River

I never particularly had a yen to try kayaking. I mean, it wasn't one of those things that was on my list of things to do before I die. But when my fiance suggested a kayak trip, I said, "Sure, why not?" So we slogged off to an unmentionable kayak outfitter shop in North Carolina.

The owner and assistant were nice enough. I admit I had some trepidation when I learned I was going to go kayaking on the Cape Fear River. The name struck a chord in me somehow. Maybe it was that scary movie with Robert De Niro... The butterflies only increased when I learned we were going whitewater kayaking. And there I was - I had never been in a kayak before in my life.

The first thing I told them was that I had some nervousness about turning over the kayak and not being able to right it. I wanted to know how to turn back over if that happened. "Oh, don't worry," they said. "That won't happen." Right.

My fiance climbed into his kayak and the current was a little strong, so it took him about 30 feet down from the launch point. He paddled around, making it look easy. Okay, I can do this, I said to myself.

The two instructors stood on the shore and helped button me into my kayak. I got about five feet and Bloop!  My kayak flipped over. My fiance saw this. The two instructors saw this. My fiance was, if you recall, 30 feet down the river. He began to paddle back against the current - not an easy feat.

Meanwhile, I was staring at the bottom of the river. Okay, I said to myself. They saw me. No problem. Someone will flip me over soon. I took my paddle and tried to reach the bottom. Too deep. I tried paddling in an effort to turn myself. No dice.

I hadn't really had a chance to get a deep breath because the flip took me by surprise. After about 30 seconds underwater, I thought hmm, maybe they didn't see me. This worried me some.

Meanwhile, above water, my fiance was hollering for one of the instructors to help. He knew he couldn't get to me in time. The man said, "I'm just waiting for her to right herself." Uh-huh. The woman screamed at him, "Get in there and do something!"

Back under the water - I finally came to the conclusion that no one had seen me turn over. Over a minute had passed and I was still staring at the same murky silt so far below. A sense of calm passed over me and acceptance that this was how I would die. I was sad as I thought how I would never see my son or mother again. And to think - kayaking wasn't even on my list of things to do before I die.

Another 15 seconds passed and suddenly I was flipped over, choking and splurting water.

Believe it or not, I switched kayaks with one of the instructors - one of those models that you sit on instead of being buttoned into (and trapped)  - and I continued with the trip. Numerous times over the next four hours, I turned over in the Level Four rapids and found myself in the water being flung against one boulder after another like a human pinball. But I always did manage to climb back on and finished the journey. Of course, I had an almost entirely black and blue body for two weeks, but it was definitely an experience to tell my grandchildren.
Clearh20warrior Clearh20warrior
41-45, F
1 Response Oct 28, 2006

how did you hold your breath under that water?