5 Things I Love About Whitewater

Just keep paddling.

By: Jim Horner

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I remember the first time I got into some whitewater. We had been floating rather placid streams up until that point and had no idea what we were doing. Sitting in our cheap inflatable rafts, powered by our hands and grinning from ear to ear, we set off into the great unknown.

Looking back at that time reminds me of why I started boating in the first place. Having fun with friends in the outdoors is enough for me and something that I still chase to this day. Here are the 5 things I love about whitewater.

1. The Camaraderie

Photo: Rob Giersch

Boating isn’t just about being on the water just like hunting isn’t about shooting things. It’s about the surroundings, the environment and the friends.

There’s just something about being able to do the things you love with people you love. The experience is magnified many times over the original. The bond that’s created on the water is a special one and one that can only be experienced when a moment is shared.

2. The Excitement

Photo: Rob Giersch

Whitewater is white for a reason. The unrelenting power of water when it meets an obstacle is amazing and when you’re caught up in that raw power you learn a whole new level of respect for the water. From the car window it looks like a nice mountain stream meandering down through a canyon. Get in that water though you see it in a totally different light.

Cresting a 6 foot tall standing wave when you’re moving 10+ mph is a thrill unlike any other. You can’t control the water, just yourself and when you open up to the challenge of running big water, you learn about yourself and what you can really do. Water is always ready to challenge you.

3. The Peacefulness

Photo: Lindsay Daniels

In between wave trains, dodging bony sections of rocks, and running rapids, there are calm moments of respite. These are like being at a rock concert and then walking outside. The silence and calmness of it all is overwhelming.

I remember smiling as big as I could once, trying to squeeze every ounce of joy into one signifying act. That moment I had my head leaned back on my boat looking up at canyon walls and watching the world drift by after running big class 4 water. Water provides the most cathartic experience I’ve ever found.

4. The Learning

Photo: Rob Giersch

I remember starting out running whitewater and the zero amount of experience or judgement I had about it. I devoured everything I could in the beginning. Books, magazines, blogs, forums… everything. Each time we went out there was a new technique to try and new tool to utilize or a new way of running a section.

Whitewater provides a very natural classroom. When we needed to get somewhere or do something we had to learn how and not just topically either, we learned wholeheartedly. In the water and with it’s magnificent power you need to do your homework or the river can and will win. Trust me, you don’t want the river to win.

5. Being Done

Photo: Nick Tort

I know what you’re thinking. Is this guy really telling me that one of the 5 best things about whitewater is being done?

Yes, I am.

I’ve run a lot of water, big and small on days that were either hot or cold or raining or snowing. While there’s not a day in there that I would give back, there’s nothing quite like peeling off your gear, getting dry with tunes playing out open truck doors, and having cold beers on the tailgate while talking about what we just ran or who swam where and what we could next.

This is one of my favorite parts. This is what bonded us together in the first place, the natural friendship that we enjoy and how the water has made that stronger.

We spend time on the water to be with friends in the wild not to hurry back to our everyday lives. We relish each part of our journeys in the wild so that when we turn our lives in a new direction there will never be a doubt that we ran water fast and wild together. That is why I love whitewater.

Cover photo: Rob Giersch

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Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph.