I’m not sure how non PC it is for a kayaker to write a story about a canoe festival, but I’m going for it anyway. Yesterday was the major kick start to Ain’t Louie Fest–a week where canoers from along the east coast and Canada come down to rule the Southeast’s rivers. As long as the rivers run, the canoers will be on them and that includes the Tellico, whatever’s in the Smokies, and possibly the Cheoah the following Saturday.
Yesterday started ALF, and man was it a
start! Dozens of canoests put in on the upper Tellico and finished the race at Baby Falls, a 14-foot waterfall into a pool right above a shallow slide. It’s a photogenic rapid, and lots of pictures were taken. Canoests also lend themselves better for a picture.
As I stood watching Baby Falls, I couldn’t help thinking that the canoests looked like they
were diving into the rapids while the kayakers kind of just appeared to be scooting their butts in plastic over the edge and flopping in. Again, I’m a kayaker so I’m sorry to betray us, but canoeists just look a little sexier when they’re styling rapids.
Anyway, the Tellico Race had different divisions–juniors, mortals, superhero, and tandem. Soon after the first man hit the water at Baby Falls, the others followed–one, two, four people right after the other landing Baby Falls (not always right side up). They just kept coming, and the size of the canoeing community quickly became apparent. On a typical day, kayakers dominate the river, and one tends to think canoeing is a small piece of boating or a pastime left to class II-III older people.
Not so. These boaters were impressive and, honestly, graceful. They made an art of river running in ways rarely with seen kayakers. From my perspective, I think it’s because kayakers can muscle their way through class III+ fairly easily. We’ve got the roll and an extra paddle blade to help us when we miss a line. So we’re more likely to advance levels without getting the technique to quite where it needs to be. Canoeists have more at stake when they mess up so technique is more essential early on in their boating careers. Patience, too. Canoeists really need to know a line and anticipate their moves, where a kayaker can muscle through the line they blew.
They make me think of film vs. digital cameras. Like digital cameras, kayaking allows for
more mistakes, and takes people to new places and new levels of whitewater. Yet like film, canoeing offers a simplicity of form unparalleled in beautiful expression of the idea. For yesterday and the rest of this week, it is riding the river.