Thursday, July 28, 2011

fear and rafting in north carolina

So what do you do when you put the finishing touches on 3 new small sculptures and deliver them to the powder coating place? get embarrassingly excited about getting the sculptures back and seeing how they turned out. And then you ditch your worries by going whitewater rafting at the USNWC
The US National Whitewater Center is just outside of Charlotte, NC. It is the world's largest man made recirculating river and it is also a US Olympics training site. Go here for a better sales pitch: I got to tag along with my wife's group from work on sort of a spur of the moment type of trip.
The river features a 22 foot drop over one long route and one short route. Dropping 22 feet in elevation over a long route makes for a nice family adventure and insures that everyone will get wet. Dropping 22 feet on the short route makes for a few terrifying moments and insures that someone is going swimming. There may or may not be a near death experience involved.
Our group covered both routes twice and it was pretty easy to see the strategy of the rafting guides. The first run is educational. The guide gets to see how the group follows instructions and how they react to surprises. The second run is apparently a contest to see just how many people the guide can get tossed overboard by the class III and class IV rapids.
The good news is that they will save you from the watery peril. On our final trip through the short course our guide decided we should do it backwards for more of a challenge. Of the 8 people in our boat only 3 of us held on tight enough to to remain in the boat. Even the guide went in the drink at one point but he only did that to help rescue the person who had the near death experience.
While there was a serious element of fear involved in the adventure, this really is a safe and controlled experience. The USNWC has never had a drowning at the facility and most of the injuries there are well deserved ones brought on by really dumb ideas being put into action. In addition to the guides in each raft there are swift water rescuers stationed around the rapids with rescue ropes. But try telling that to the 5 people who were cast into the river. And even if you're relatively safe in the boat there's an adrenaline rush involved when you have to pull people you know out of the frothing water while continuing to rush over Olympic sized rapids.
I saw facial expressions of fear and panic that will no doubt find their way into some future artwork. And because I didn't have to swim for my life, I also partook in a very healthy dose of belly laughter at the expense of others. I'm not proud of it...but it was hilarious.
All photos courtesy of Google image search. The actual photos of our boat in action can be found on the USNWC website but they were copyrighted.

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