Ultra Classic: the Wayne Gentry Interview

At the 1991 Gauley Festival Wayne Gentry released Green Summer, his first whitewater film. While Bob Benner called Gorilla “the most bodacious rapid ever run by the elite eastern hairheads” in his book Carolina Whitewater, Gentry and his crew were dropping some of the biggest whitewater on the East Coast, Gorilla included, on a regular basis. Gentry followed Green Summer with four more audacious movies that helped push whitewater paddling to the next level. Site Zed recently caught up with Gentry for a phone interview. He spoke in the soft, understated Southern accent that his videos are known for. He is releasing all his films on his YouTube channel.

SZ: How many films did you make?

WG: Five. Green Summer was first then Southern Fried Creekin’, Plunge, Vertical Addiction, and Creekin’ in the USA.

SZ: Were they all filmed in the Southeast?

WG: Creekin’ in the USA was filmed all over the country. It was ninety minutes, a bit of an overreach, and filmed from the Southeast all the way to Alaska.

SZ: What kind of video equipment were you using?

WG: We were using Super VHS. It was a Best Buy camera. I just happened to get one for Christmas so I thought I would try it out on the river. We went up and shot on the Green some. I put it together for our friends pretty much. Everybody said, “Man you should put that out.” So we took it up to the Gauley Festival in 1991. We edited with two VCRs with nothing in between them. It was pretty primitive. After that I bought some high end cameras. I would usually burn one or two cameras per film, getting them wet and whatnot. We used the old Man of Rubber drybags. I would just stick them between my legs. As we went along I improved my equipment a little. I had an Avionex  mixer first and then a Panasonic mixer. We never had any computers. They were outrageously priced. The Panasonic mixer was around 1700 bucks I guess. That was the most we spent on equipment.

SZ: Did you have any sponsorship money?

WG: No sponsorship at all, it was all just whatever I made from the last film and whatever was left out of my paycheck. I never made anything off the videos. But that really was not the reason for doing it. It was just fun.

SZ: How many sold?

WG: I’m not sure. It seems like I sold about 1200 Vertical Addiction. That and Southern Fried Creekin’ were probably the two most popular. They sold as far away as Japan. That was pretty amazing.

SZ: What was the scene at the Green? How many people were running it consistently?

WG: Not many. Two or three groups were out there regularly. Tom Visinius and that group from NOC. Woody was always there. He fell in love with the place and he’s still there today. Maybe 25 or 30 people max.

SZ: What was the class V community in general like?

WG: It was a good time jumping in and out of local paddling cliques. Everyone was your best friend. I will never forget going to West Virginia with Roger Zbel and those guys. It was like you had known them for awhile and they were very welcoming. When I did Creekin in the USA people were just as friendly as they could be. Just like, “You are one of us.” Traveling around the country there was no difference in the way people treated us. Everybody was just a part of the family. Especially in the South. There was the Chattanooga crew, the Chatooga crew. It seemed like everybody got along. I don’t know of any conflicts ever. There was some competition of course, people trying to do new runs and whatnot, but there was never any viciousness. Everybody got along real well. It was a lot of fun hanging out with all of them. There were differences in the groups. Woody, Psycho, and the North Carolina crew were different from the Chattanooga crew. The North Carolina group was a little more laid back, cutting up all the time. Psycho was always coming up with something. The Tennessee crew (Tracy Clapp, Clay Wright and those guys) were serious hard chargers. They were pushing hard over there.

SZ: I remember watching Vertical Addiction the first time and thinking, “Holy shit. I can’t believe people do this.” It was way out on the fringe.

WG: Yeah at the time Bear Creek was a really hard run, very difficult. It kept coming at you. A lot of times I was on somebodys tail and they would say “All right. Go down to this rock and take a left then catch the eddy behind the rock on the right.” I had to get good at interpreting what they meant really quick because I was trying to film runs I had never been on before. Thankfully those guys were good at giving instructions as far as how to get set up before they came through. There was some pretty intense stuff over there. And Russ Kulmar and Kent Wiginton were charging pretty hard over on the North Carolina side too.

SZ: You are behind the camera for the most part. Were you paddling all that stuff?

WG: Yeah. With Green Summer I said, “I’m not going to put myself in here at all.” I just felt self-conscious about putting out a video to say, “Look how good I am.” The purpose of the video was to show off the Green and the people that were doing this top end stuff. I put myself in a few just to kind of say I was there. But I have never been one for self promotion. I did not want to be the focal point of everything. I wanted the rivers and the other paddlers to be the ones who got the credit. It was just a personal thing. I didn’t want people thinking I was just out there showing off, trying to show everyone what a great paddler I am.

SZ: Were you on the all the trips? Some of that stuff, like the Toxaway and Whitewater, was on the extreme edge of what was considered runnable.

WG: Several of them I was. Sometimes I wasn’t just because I had a nine to five job and catching the water was difficult. Plus Kent and Russ kind of liked to sneak off and not tell people where they were going and that type of thing. They are great people. Some of that stuff I was not on. A lot of Creekin’ in the USA I was not there for because I couldn’t  get all over the country. I had people from West Virginia shoot some of that. I did as much as I could. They would call me from Chattanooga Wednesday night and say, “It’s raining like crazy up here we think Bear will be running tomorrow.” I would call in the next day and say, “I got to take the day off.”

SZ: What were you doing for work at the time?

WG: Computer programming.

SZ: Where were you living?

WG: I lived in the Atlanta area so I was driving a lot.

SZ: What was it like chasing water back then?

WG: It was pretty difficult. When we were doing Vertical Addiction we had a list of creeks we wanted to get. And the Chattanooga guys would call me to tell me, “We think it is going to be in tomorrow.” Usually they were right on. So it was just that and watching the weather on the TV. That’s all we had to go by.

SZ: How did you know each other?

WG: A lot of us knew each other from the Ocoee. That’s where everybody got to know each other. During the summer everyone would tend to migrate over there. That’s where I met Woody for the first time. It was a central spot and we would just kind of go from there.

SZ: What roll do you think your films played in the progression of creekboating?

WG: I’m a little blown away that people still even care compared to the stuff they are doing today. I never really thought about it much. A lot of people have told me that the videos were a big influence on them which makes me feel really good. Without them saying that I never thought much about it.

SZ: There is a whole generation of paddlers that are around 40 now that grew up watching those and it kind of showed us what was out there. Those videos planted the seed.

WG: One reason we made the movies was just to show everybody what was out there and how awesome and beautiful those creeks and rivers were. We were the only people who could get in there. That was the main purpose, but it does make me feel good that people saw that and it inspired them to push harder and do the things they are doing today.

SZ: Are you still boating?

WG: I am paddling some. I am hoping to retire in a couple years and I am trying to get back into it. We had six kids so we were pretty busy for awhile. The four oldest are grown, so we just have two little ones now.

SZ: Do they paddle?

WG: I have one son who really likes it. He paddles a good bit. We go out together four or five times a year.

SZ: What do you think about GoPro?

WG: I can tell you I used to dream of a remote control helicopter with a camera and now drones are everywhere. Same with GoPro. I used to think, “How can I get a camera on my helmet”. I like the footage. Sometimes I think it’s better from the bank but it does give a good perspective. I wish we would of had them when I was filming. I would have giving anything for something like that. We were using big cameras with four or five batteries and tapes. It was pretty heavy, a good fifteen pounds when all was said and done.

SZ: Do you have plans to release the other videos?

WG: I hope to release Plunge next week. I want all of them out there. They need to be somewhere other than my basement. That old VHS tape does not last forever.


Lunatic Fringe


Chris Gragtmans dropping Big Falls on the Elk at flood stage. Photo credit Spencer Cooke,
Chris Gragtmans going huge at Big Falls on the Elk at flood stage. Photo credit Spencer Cooke,


Stinging cold wind burned my face. The freezing water of the Green River shocked my bare hands, but I pulled my neoprene gloves off. I was about to get in the ring for some high stakes bare knuckle boxing. The river was high, 21 inches on the gage (a normal summer release is seven inches), and I was above Gorilla, the biggest rapid of the day. I was fucking scared. I felt fear and apprehension sliding up my gut and into the back of my throat, but I swallowed, forcing doubt down. A few deep breaths and I entered the first ledge. In seconds I was flowing downstream, dancing with an untamable force of nature. I dropped off the main event, a narrow 15 footer, right where I wanted to be. Landing in the final eddy below the last big holes, I pumped my fist in the frigid air and shouted out “Woooohooooo”. Euphoria flooded me.

We were a group of nine, but only three of us tangled with Gorilla that day.

Just prior to that run, my wife had asked me “What do you do now for your dopamine fix?” in light of the fact that I don’t push my limits with the frequency I used to. I tried to come up with a good answer (endurance sports, picking hard lines in easy rapids, etc.). But after that day I came home with the real answer. “You don’t replace that level of paddling with anything”.  And not just any rapid demands that level of commitment.

There are hundreds of Class V rapids in Western North Carolina. But there are a few drops that dwarf the rest. These are the rapids that the best of the best often leave for another day, the ones that leave the majority of even the strongest groups standing on shore. I interviewed some of the South’s most prolific paddlers to come up with this list of  the hardest, meanest drops in the state.

Class V+

Next Time on the Lower Cullasaja. Photo credit Spencer Cooke,
Next Time on the Lower Cullasaja. Photo credit Spencer Cooke,

These rapids are run with some frequency, but for many takers they are career defining.

  • Gorilla at 200%: Gorilla may be the most famous rapid in the country. It is a staple of the southern creek boater’s diet; particularly in the summer when other streams are bone dry. But when the power plant upstream is releasing 200%, or double the normal flow, it enters an unrivaled realm of intensity. The entrance above and slides below the main drop morph into one another, forming a multi-move cascade with a raw power that sends most boaters for the bank. I can attest to the difficulty of this set-one high water season, I swam out of the bottom hole three times.
  • Nutcracker: Gorilla, Sunshine and Go Left and Die are together considered the “Big Three” rapids of the Green. Add Nutcracker to make the Big Four.   Although in its current incarnation it is a wood clogged mess, at times it is runnable. The tight slot twists 90 degrees as it drops through a boulder pile with a shallow landing. A clean line is imperative due to the pinny run out that dumps into Groove Tube and Sunshine.
  • Drunk Tank: The Linville River has more Class V rapids than any river around, but Drunk Tank stands out from the rest. It features a stompy hole with a narrow exit between a rock and an undercut room that looks fatal. Local boater Mark Taylor related the story of his first Drunk Tank run at low water. “…I instantly got stopped in the first hole. It typewritered me into the fan rock. I figured it was a pillow and held a left brace to try and counteract it. It rocked me so hard I saw stars. I got knocked out briefly before I came to, and was struggling to roll up on the left wall. After carping a few rolls, I finally rolled up and paddled off…”
  • Eclipse and Next Time: So called because it eclipses Sunshine on the Green, the Lower Cullasaja is home to this gradient storm. First run accidently in the 90s, Eclipse is long, tall and ugly. A sharp turn leads to the crux 15 footer with plenty of consequence in the run out. One of my buddies once pinned in the vertical crack below the big drop. I had already run it and was waiting for him below. His helmet floated off the bottom drop sans paddler, then his sprayskirt, paddle and boat followed suit. Seconds later he swam off the ledge, leaping for shore. He was badly shaken but uninjured. Next Time (as in “I’ll run it next time”) is immediately below Eclipse. It is a 10 to 15 foot ledge with a shallow, undercut landing.
  • Anaconda: “The Snake” as it is affectionately known, is on the Raven Fork Gorge in the Smoky Mountain National Park. A tricky eight foot ledge leads into a winding corridor full of potential problems. Not only is it the first rapid on Raven Fork, it is at the put in. No time to warm up for this one.
  • Mike Tysons Punch Out: The Raven Fork is home to some of the some of the steepest whitewater in Carolina, and for most paddlers Mike’s is the biggest rapid of the day. The 50 foot slide throws it all out there, with a stacked entrance and massive curler that was made to flip kayaks. Hold on tight and brace yourself for the climax, a steep 20 footer.
  • Energizer: The Toxaway River is unique in Appalachia due to a dam breaking loose decades ago and flooding the river bed. The result is several miles of scoured bed rock. That does not make it clean though. Energizer lives up to its name. The sliding crack drop just keeps going and going. It goes right into a big flake rock that shoots a rooster tail 10 feet into the air. Though it is run frequently, no one takes it lightly.
  • Trash Can: This high country special has been a long time favorite of the Boone/App State crowd. It is on a tiny tributary to the Watauga, Laurel Creek. The drop is anything but tiny. It sluices through a boat wide slot, dropping ten feet onto a big slab that slides down the mountain. It goes better than it looks though.


Next Level

Chris Gragtmans exiting the Mini-Gorge on the Whitewater River. Photo credit Spencer Cooke,
Chris Gragtmans exiting the Mini-Gorge on the Whitewater River. Photo credit Spencer Cooke,


These drops are beyond Class V. If there is such a thing as runnable Class VI, this is it.

  • Hale Mary: Every rapid on the Raven Fork has been run. Hale Mary, named after Jason Hale made the first descent, has been run at least a few times. It is a hideous, sieved out boulder pile, full of pin potential.
  • The Mangler: Also on Raven, professional kayaker Pat Keller ran it first, at the tender age of 15. He describes it as “two drops with around two boat lengths between the landing of the first drop and the launch off the second. The really aesthetic thing about this rapid is the way the first drop twists to the right, and the second to the left. That sounds all fun and good but there are a few issues. Part of the river goes underground between drops one and two, so no swimming allowed. The second drop lands on a weird block rock to the river left, and what doesn’t boil up from the rock is jammed way down into a pothole/crack center to right. On top of all that is the huge log that blocks the bottom of the crack.” It has seen at least four more runs since Keller’s first descent (one unintentional). Unfortunately it has changed for the worse and is now “completely unrunnable” according to Keller.
  • Death Penalty: Almost everyone who runs Linville looks at Death Penalty, a standard portage, and thinks “It might go with enough water”. It does, but the line is thin and it lives up to its name. At high flows it is a big, marginally covered sieve. It is not recommended, but it has been run at least three times in the last 10 years.
  • Seal Launch Portage: This is another Linville drop that people look at with curiosity. I confirmed one descent, at high water, by Mark Taylor. Most people who run Linville don’t run it with enough water to consider this heinous drop. And most people who run Linville high enough will already find their threshold for adrenaline in overdrive by the time they get there. But Taylor proved that the move over a 10 footer and past a terrible room of doom is possible.
  • Mini-Gorge: The Whitewater River, in the Lake Jocassee drainage, is known for high adventure. It delivers more than most can handle right off the bat with the Mini-Gorge. Keller describes it: “For almost a hundred yards the entire Whitewater River funnels down into a crack that is only 3 feet wide in places and drops precipitously down the mountain”. Multiple steep, potholed drops lead into a clean 30 footer. It is a sweet reward for anyone willing to deal with the stress of the gorge, where downstream is the only option.
  • Nemesis: The Cullasaja features many marginably runnable drops but Nemesis may be the hardest of them all. It is in an inaccessible, steep, and slick walled gorge. It pinches down into a slot that has dished out as many beatings as the rest of the river combined. Luckily the road is never far, making the portage an easy option. Knoxville local Caleb Paquette, who has run many of the drops on this list, said “Nemesis is definitely one of the most difficult rapids I have run, with multiple moves and consequences. And the road is literally right there making portaging the logical choice. You really have to want it. All that said, I ran the bottom slot backwards and didn’t get my face wet.”
  • 40/40: Half waterfall, half rapid, 40/40 on Toxaway saw several descents in the early 2000s but since then has fallen out of favor. One of Keller’s personal favorites, he says “There’s just no way to make it clean and not take a hit. Fall off the right slab and you get this gnarly change of direction that tries to unhinge your lower back from your hip.” It is also in an incredibly remote spot with limited access.
40/40 on the Towxaway River. Photo credit Pat Keller
40/40 on the Towxaway River. Photo credit Pat Keller



There are not many runnable waterfalls in WNC, and the ones people run tend to be anything but clean.

  • Big Boy: The marquee drop of the Raven Fork, Big Boy is a 25 to 30 footer that lands on rock. There is a clean line, but the landing is extremely tight. It used to be portaged more often than not, but now it is dropped with some frequency.
  • Brick Layer: Another Cullasja waterfall, Brick Layer is in the 20 to 30 foot range and also lands on a big slab of rock. It has been run many times, but is usually portaged.
  • Big Falls: The Elk River plummets 50 feet at the put in of the Twisted Falls section. It looks clean but I have seen many errant lines resulting in broken bodies and gear. It falls hard.
  • Silver Run: Above the more commonly run Whitewater River gorge, Silver Run falls beckons hucksters looking to get loose. The 30 plus footer careens down a steep slide before going vertical. It lands in a dead green pool. At least one run has resulted in a broken back.
  • Courthouse Falls: The beautiful 40 foot vertical drop on the upper reaches of the French Broad was originally documented on the classic video Southern Fried Creekin’. It comes in when the North Fork is flowing high, but apparently it delivers a big hit.
Daniel Stewart drops Big Boy on the Raven Fork. Photo credit Fergus Coffey
Daniel Stewart drops Big Boy on the Raven Fork. Photo credit Fergus Coffey



This list is not definitive (Linville Falls, Toxaway Falls, Looking Glass Falls and the Garden of the Gods on the West Fork of the Pigeon have all ben run). There is always going to be someone out there seeking the next big thing. But these rapids and falls have stood the test of time. They will always be hard, they will always be dangerous. Those who step up to them will never forget their runs.


David Cohen's perfect line on a high water Gorilla run still resulted in a dislocated thumb. Photo Credit Olivia Linney
David Cohen’s perfect line on a high water Gorilla run still resulted in a dislocated thumb. Photo Credit Olivia Linney

Life and Death Beyond the Edge

I watched a man die, for the first time, on the Green River.  Witt was vertically pinned against a tombstone shaped rock at the bottom of Chiefs.  I was scouting Gorilla when I heard shouting.

“He’s pinned” a panicked voice rang out.  I turned and looked back at Witt.  He was vertical but not moving.  Water slammed against his back.  In an instant, the boat collapsed violently and Witt was buried in a liquid avalanche.

We ran up river to help, but it was hopeless.  I will never forget his hand.  It reached up to the surface desperately.  He was still alive and reaching, praying, hoping that somehow we could get a rope to that weakening hand and rescue him.  He struggled for a couple of minutes before going limp.  I could not see his hand after that.

Hours after the water was turned off we extracted Witt’s body with the help of a rescue crew.  His femurs were both broken in half, his legs limp and deformed like bags of jelly.

The second drowning I witnessed was five years later on the Russell Fork, a notoriously deadly class 5 run in Kentucky.  The rocks there are like Swiss cheese, full of holes.  John was an older man and he was rag dolled in a hole for minutes and minutes.  Eventually he flushed out, still in his boat.  A friend pulled him out of the kayak and onto shore.  CPR was initiated, but it was far too late.  John’s skin was a blue-ashen pale.   His life was over.

In both instances, I paddled class 5 the following day.

My Dad got me into kayaking when I was only a kid.  We lived thirty minutes from the Nantahala in North Carolina in what seemed like the whitewater epicenter of the universe.  What more could an eleven-year-old boater ask for?  I spent several years learning the basics, and by the time I was thirteen I was ready for the Ocoee.

The Ocoee is a class 3+ play run, but, at the time, it was a rite of passage.  I stood atop the long concrete ramp that leads to the water and stared at the maelstrom of whitewater in front of me.  I was intimidated, scared but excited.  I don’t remember anything else from that day, but I have a vivid image of the view below the ramp.  Beautiful, enticing, rushing water led to a bend in the river.  Beyond that the river was unknown to me-but I wanted to go there.

As time passed, I became a better paddler.  I ran Section 4 of the Chattooga as a sophomore in high school.  I was comfortable in class 4 and 4+ whitewater, but my Dad would not let me step up to class 5.  At the time it seemed unfair, but I appreciated his conservatism later because it taught me patience.

I graduated from high school and got a job as a raft guide with NOC.  It rained during the spring raft guide training.  A group of us went to the upper Nantahala and ran the Cascades.  At the time it was the steepest thing I had run.  Big Kahuna, the crux rapid, felt like it was 28 feet tall (it’s about 8 feet tall).  It was the first time I had to look up to see upstream.  The rush and sense of accomplishment hooked me.  I loved being in control and so intensely focused that nothing but the water, gravity and me existed.

A natural progression occurred. Paddling difficult whitewater 200 days a year paid off.   I became an expert hair boater.  A year or two after the drowning on the Green another experience changed my life forever.

It was a cold December day.  My buddy Obie and I were running the Green.  We knew the water would be high, but we did not expect the raging monster that we found at the put-in.  Arriving at Gorilla, Obie began the portage.  I stayed in my boat.  “What are you doing, man?  Are you fucking crazy?” he said.

“I can do this.  Will you hold a rope for me?”

I ferried across the lip of the entrance, boofing clean into a big eddy.  I looked over at Obie, and he held up his rope to show me that it was frozen solid.  I was on my own.

A second ferry and I hit the meat of the Notch with all of my conviction.  I typewriterred into the main flow and took a couple of quick strokes before flying off the main drop, a narrow 15 footer.  Exiting the flume I punched a couple of large sliding holes and dropped into a final eddy.  I had never felt so alive.  I had entered the world of big time class 5 and 6 whitewater.  I never looked back.

The next ten years held countless river days, countless adventures.  There were solo runs on the Cullasaja, Linville, and Taureau; doubles and triples of the Taureau and Linville; class 6 descents of standard portages in NC, Colorado, and California.

One day I found myself alone, vertically pinned on the Cullasaja with the entire river pouring onto my back and head.   I did not have an air pocket.  I was doomed.  But, as suddenly as I had pinned, I popped off the rock and continued on my way with sore legs and a broken boat.  The next day I returned to the ‘Saja, solo, and ran the same rapid that had nearly killed me.

My greatest fear was not death.  My greatest fear was losing my edge.  My greatest fear was shoulder dislocation.  I lived to paddle and paddled, literally, to live.

In the shadow of all the insane boating, I led a normal life.  I graduated from paramedic and nursing school, working in the field for over 10 years.  I married and had a beautiful little boy.  We named him Ryland.  I was aware that as I forged my way through life, running difficult water, my responsibilities were increasing, but the idea did not bother me.  Nor did it change the way I paddled.  I became a little more conservative as I aged-it’s inevitable.  But I was still running class 5+ whitewater consistently.

Last August, rain fell in New England.  My main paddling partner Alan Panebaker and I ran Glover Brook.  Glover is steep, shallow and blind.  Full of wood and pin rocks, it’s a true gnar run.  We approached a blind slot, and I hopped out to scout from the top.  I glanced downstream and everything looked clear.  I got back in my boat and shouted some directions to Alan.   As I ferried into current, I felt a twinge in my gut; “something ain’t right,” I thought.  But it was too late, I was committed.  As I dropped over the edge, I stopped dead.   I could not tell what was wrong, but I knew it was bad.

“What the fuck?” was all I had time to think before I was ripped from my boat.  I swam under a log breaching the slot.

“I should be dead,” I thought as I gathered my gear.

“If you had stopped in there, I would just be standing on the shore in a panic right now” Alan said grimly.

“Yeah, there’s nothing you could have done for me, that’s for sure”.

The close call did not have a lasting effect on us.  We were immediately back in our boats running class 5 and 5+ whitewater.  We laughed at danger.

Maybe we should not have.  Alan died a month later.  I watched him broach and pin against a sieve with a tree in it.  He fought for his life, but he was on his own and there was nothing he could do.  He flipped and went into the sieve.  We were below him in a walled out, smooth granite bowl.  By the time we got back up to the sieve he was nowhere to be seen.  We weren’t even sure he was in the sieve but threw ropes into it with fading hope.  He was there, but his hands never grasped our ropes.

An hour or two later, with more manpower, we were able to move the log around and free his body.  He floated through the rapids before coming to rest in a large recirculating eddy.  I ran to my boat horrified, and paddled up to my friend.  He was the pale blue hue that is unmistakably dead.

“Ohh Alan” I groaned under my breath as I clipped my tow tether to his lifejacket.  I ferried out into the flow and Toby grabbed his body.  I caught an eddy and clambered onto a rock to help.  We pulled Alan’s cold body out of the frigid, clear water.  I lay across the top of him, hugging him.  I looked up and saw tourists taking pictures of us with their smart phones.

“This can’t be real.”  I was in a daze hiking out of the gorge.  I called Alan’s girlfriend fifteen or twenty times before finally leaving a message.  “It’s Adam.  Call me.”

We drove to her house that afternoon.  I quickly got drunk on a bottle of Knob Creek whisky. Its warm burn was the only thing I could feel.  Everything else was a surreal numb.

When we arrived at her house, we hugged and cried.  I apologized over and over.  “I’m so sorry.  So sorry.  I never wanted it to be like this.  I never wanted to make that phone call.”

Buddy, Alan’s dog, barked nervously like he expected Alan to walk in the door any minute.

The next ten days were a blur of alcohol and logistics.  We corralled boats and gear, called family members and friends, planned a memorial service.  We drank and drank some more.  It was the hardest week of my life.  I can only imagine how Alan’s family felt.

Now I sit here, trying to make sense of the senseless.  There is no moral to this story.  Alan, Witt and John were in the wrong place.  They died.  I have many other friends who were in the wrong place.  They died too.

I love the sport.  It has taken me to places physically and figuratively that most people will never see.  And there are more good lines than bad ones-more near misses and close calls than fatalities.  Kayaking dangerous whitewater is often forgiving.  The problem is that when it’s not, the toll is too high.