Following the Call

Running Weißbach creek. Photo credit: Sabrina

My favorite river? Well, now, there are many rivers that are easier to approach, and maybe even more fun to paddle. The river I’m talking about now is my favourite river for a different reason. It was long before I was capable of running it when I first got to see the narrow, mystic gorge that makes you think you were stepping into fairytale scenery. The sun hardly ever gets to the ground. It has buried itself deep into the mountains between Germany and Austria and at times is hardly as wide as the length of a modern creekboat is. A tiny path winds along it, so not only paddlers but hikers as well can enjoy the beauty of the narrows.

It’s called Weißbach, a narrow creek of class 4 according to river guides, with one waterfall usually portaged. Basically, it’s a pool and drop character, but the narrowness and hard -to -access river banks add some spice to the already challenging features.

A few years later after I had progressed quite a bit, I came to walk the gorge again, and it was then I got my call. Do you know what it feels like to get a call from a river? You see its waters, and you feel drawn to it. Not like you just feel like going boating, but you need to run that very river. It’s hard to explain. A lot of people told me not to do it, saying it was too dangerous, my skills not advanced enough and other reasons. I’m not an adrenaline addict or a show-off. My motivation to run that river was the feeling of needing to do it, of being called. That creek wanted me to run it. Now, my skills were not worth a world champion, nor my experience. But I knew for sure that I was capable of doing it, no matter whan anyone else said. Don’t ask me how I could tell, I just knew it.

One more year, and I finally found the right circumstances to give it a go. I followed the call, I was afraid, but it was a success, and I had not only had a great day out there and learned many things, but I had received a message from that river: Follow your inner voice! In the end, there is only one person who can judge, and that is you! So many people had tried talking me out of it, but I knew it better, and after the run, I had seen my own voice had been right.

This one doesn’t get boring while you enhance your skills. Two years later, I had become an open boater, and  – thinking it must be doable – attempted and succeeded an OC first decent of the Weißbach creek. Again, although having gained experience and skills in the meanwhile, I was scared. But – I remembered the lessons from my first run. I stopped, looked and listened. It was a perfect day, full of excitement and joy, experiences, jokes with the friends, more than a perfect day.

The story is not over here – I have heard the call again. I mentioned the waterfall that usually is portaged. I was not ready for it that day – but one day, I will follow the call.

By Sabrina Barm

Sabrina grew up in an Old Town trad boat. I started C1 whitewater 2006, became a canoe slalom athlete in 2010, and open boater in 2012.


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