Kayaking the Slip

River: Slippery Rock Creek
Section: Ranger Station to Eckert Bridge
Level: about 0″
Date: Sunday, October 12th, 2003

After work on Saturday I stopped by Speedy’s place to hang out and BS for a while. Of course, he asked me to paddle with him on Sunday. I said no, then I said I would think about it, then I told him I’d call him. As you might have guessed, noon found us on Sunday loading the boats and heading up I-79 towards McConnell’s Mill State Park.

What a day! The temps had recovered from the previous weeks cold spell and hovered at a pleasant 70 degrees. While we had not quite hit the height of fall foliage, trees splashed in orange and red filtered the afternoonsun as we ran the shuttle, dropping a car off at the take-out and gearing up at the Ranger Station. Before long, we were warm and cozy in dry tops, neoprene skirts, PFDs, helmets, and snug whitewater boats. The upper Slip is an infinitely more interesting run than it’s lower counterpart, and I was psyched to run it with Speedy. He and I tend to be pretty honest about our abilities when we paddle together, so we have a pretty relaxed fun time on the river.

We shoved off and rocked the boats around in the current. The river was low, lower than I had ever run it. We would scrape bottom here and there on this run. A few practice ferries across the calm water above the rapids, then we were off. Dropped into the first rapid and eddied out to river right, eyeing up the play spot Gumby had showed us last week. I was feeling great, and despite the mild weather I didn’t particularly relish the idea of flipping my boat while screwing around in the water. Nonetheless, you don’t learn anything if you don’t try, so I ferried across the pillow of whitewater, getting a feel for the wave. Another ferry and I felt good, so I paddled hard, leaned back, and surfed for a second or two until the water rejected me. While I was playing, Speedy hung out in the eddy and waited for me to flip.

“Hey man, your turn!” I called out, slipping into the eddy behind him.
“I don’t know,” he replied, color drained from his face. “Rough night last night, I think I might lose it if I flip.”
“Quit being a wimp and surf that wave!” I laughed at him, taking the camera and getting comfy in the eddy.

Speedy ferried across and back, then jumped into the trough and surfed for a bit, until the water grabbed his bow and spun him around. Over…over….bracing….bracing, and he’s in the water! As he set up for his roll, I peeled out and followed him downriver. One try, he snaps his head up, grabs a breath, and rolls back under. Second try, same story. His hands come up, grab my bow and he flips up. Never have I seen a sicker looking Speedy.

“You puke?” I asked.
“Could you tell?” he replied.

That incident done with, we moved on downriver, running drops and playing here and there. Speedy took it a bit easier than I, but then again, I’ve got a lot more to learn than he does. I was really impressed with how well he knew the river, naming rapids and pointing out the best line through drop after drop. As we neared the Dam and Covered Bridge, we stopped to practice S-turns and play a bit in the last rapid. As I tried in vain to surf or squirt or do anything at all, a flash of red twirled about upriver, cartwheeling and spinning his was down towards us. I quickly ferried across to allow the playboater full access to the hole, sat back and watched him flip and squirt and do ender after ender in the little hole. TJ, as he introduced himself, was hands down the sickest kayaker I’ve seen on the river, and solo nonetheless! He gave me some pointers on playing and I tried a few moves, but ended up taking a bow rescue from Speedy before portaging around the Dam.

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The Mile, between the Dam and Eckert Bridge, is home to a few fun play spots, not to mention massive crowds of onlookers along each shore. So Speedy and I tried to ham it up, dropping backwards into holes, spinning around and ferrying across in the biggest waves we could find. Our show paled in comparison to TJ doing enders and cartwheels in flatwater, but was satisfying anyway. Speedy and I spent a bit of time at the “cartwheel hole” trying to pull off anything at all. I managed a pretty good stern squirt, the first actual play move I’ve ever intentionally done. No cartwheels today though, and after flipping and rolling (we’ll say it was to show the crowd), we headed on down.

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