‘I kayak, therefore I live’
All right, I admit it. I have a problem. Every time I see the watery, white stuff, my heart beats faster and I break into a cold sweat of anticipation. I’ve been known to swerve off the road to stare at the river in a trance-like state. The more of it ” the fluffier, the steeper, the bigger it gets ” the better it is. I’m addicted to whitewater, and kayaking is my drug.
Believe me, kayaking is a habit-forming activity. I tried it once 10 years ago, and I’ve been hooked ever since. Every year, I spend countless dollars to feed the habit: new boat, new paddle, new skirt, new gear all around. After a long session of kayaking, my eyes are bloodshot, my hair is a mess and I’m shivering on the side of the road waiting for somebody to give me a ride. I’ve ruined more than a couple of relationships because I was too busy getting my fix on the river ” my ex-girlfriends used the term “whitewater widow.”
Fortunately, I finally found a woman who shares my addiction ” and this one’s a keeper. I’m engaged and happy about it.
I’ve tried to ween myself from the habit. I took up road biking as an alternative spring sport a couple of years ago. But when I’m wearing all that silly Spandex bikers are so fond of, sweating and swerving away from cars, all I can think about is being in my boat in that cool, rushing water. Just the other night, after choosing a road ride that paralleled the river, I almost crashed into another biker while checking out a particularly beautiful hydraulic.
Thankfully, Vail is the perfect place to feed a kayaking addiction. In my opinion, the variety, quality and accessibility of the whitewater in Vail is second to none. In the spring, Gore Creek, Dowd Chute, Gilman and Homestake Creek provide world-class boating all within a 10-minute drive of Vail. There’re the big-water waves in Dowd Chute; cold, continuous fun in Gore Creek; plenty of Class V thrills in Gilman; and true, steep, creeking on Homestake. Later in the summer, the Arkansas has beautiful high-desert whitewater, and Gore Canyon on the Colorado rates as one of the top 10 Class V runs in the country.
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Vail also offers plenty of great kayaking for beginners and intermediates.
The Upper Colorado is ideal for beginners with lots of flat water speckled with easy Class II rapids. The Lower Eagle is nice for intermediates with a few bigger rapids and plenty of busy water in between. Lastly, Shoshone on the Colorado is a year-round whitewater run for all abilities.
But for me, it’s not just the quality or variety of the boating in and around Vail that keeps me addicted ” it’s the companionship of my fellow kayak addicts that keeps me hooked. Every spring, as Dowd Chute on the Eagle starts to rise, the addicts crawl out of their winter rehabilitation places and jump back into the whitewater habit with abandon. Boaters in general are good people, but the kayakers in Vail are the best kind of people.
We all look out for one another on the river, even if we just met at the put-in. We like to show off the latest freestyle moves, but will happily cheer when the boater next to us shows off one better. We’ll give a ride to anybody who needs a shuttle, no matter how wet and gunky. We share stories of carnage and glory. We are kayak addicts, and whitewater is our drug of choice.
Ian Anderson is the director of communications for the Vail Valley Chamber and Tourism Bureau. When he’s not spinning public-relations stories for Vail, he can be found spinning 360s in his kayak on the waves of Vail’s local rivers.