Pyranha Logo
facebook twitter vimeo




“It’s kind of like an IQ-test, and we failed”

Sunshine Left – Photo by Dave Deggendorf

The last two weeks I have spent on my brief summer break. Nursing school at SCC goes year-round, with short breaks during the spring/summer, summer/fall, and fall/spring semesters. My class schedules usually keep me extremely busy, so I resolved to spend as much of this break paddling as I physically could. As you’ll see, I certainly got my money’s worth!

The southeastern class V creeking staple, the Green Narrows, was the only water available for the first week of my break. I usually paddle every week while school is in session, whether it’s at the Green or on natural flow somewhere. I decided to go spend a few days in Saluda tangling with a big monkey, and got four days in a row on the Green. The only photos I managed to get during this break are from these few days at the Green, so enjoy.

Six in the Green River Eddy!


Gorilla a few days prior

Groove Tube

The next day, Chris Harjes and I headed down to Folly Beach and the Isle of Palms to do a bit of surfing. We heard there was a swell on its way toward shore and decided to go for a brief change of scenery. I brought along my 420 in case conditions were less than ideal for my beginner surfing skills, which turned out to be a good thing! Harjes and I spent two days at a friend’s house and had 5 or 6 good surf sessions. I managed to get several good rides but the wind changed and I started having a hard time paddling out, so I switched to the 420 for the remainder of the trip. The waves were nice and I got some good aerial rides. After our second morning session, we headed up to Sumter to watch Chris’s cousin graduate from nursing school, then headed on to Asheville.

No sooner had I unpacked my stuff from the beach, had Chris called again about another road trip. I missed his call and he left me a long, detailed message about his idea for pulling this trip off, complete with what he thought would be good and what the water levels already were. The next morning I was on my way back to Harjes’s and soon we were on 26 N toward whitewater. 15 minutes outside Asheville, Eli Smith called and said he wanted to go with us, so we turned around and picked him up. At this point, it was almost mid-day, and we were going to be super late to do any sort of paddling. As we drove we called everyone we could think of and eventually got Bryan Kirk’s number. He was about to board a plane in Reno after finishing the rodeo there, but he gave us Brian Jenning’s number, whom we met when we arrived in Fayetteville later that afternoon.

When Brian finished in a meeting, we met up and headed to Mill Creek for some high-water action. The level was around 2 feet, which is apparently on the high side of good for that run, though YMMV. We made a couple of laps and were joined by David Hughes on our second. Sorry, no photos from our trip, as we were burning daylight and wanted to get as much paddling in as possible. However, here are a few to enjoy, courtesy of the AW page for Mill Creek.

John Warner, Mill Creek Falls, Courtesy of American Whitewater

Powderhouse Falls, Mill Creek -Courtesy of American Whitewater

The next morning, we discovered that the Dries of the New were in, so we went kayaking there. The Put-In Waves weren’t in, but we got some incredible playboating anyway. Too bad my playboating skills have gotten rusty! No photos from that trip either..sorry.

Since the day was still young, Eli, the Bryans, and I decided to go run the Gauley. Before reading more, check out the gauge height for May 13th (the day we paddled it).

We got to the put-in for the Upper and found water squirting out of the tubes..about 15,000 cfs worth. The ground shook. It took us around 20 minutes to work up the nerve to put on, and when we did, it was on. I could not recognize any rapids, only where the big ones are supposed to be at normal levels, from rocks on the bank, etc. The smaller rapids usually lasted around 100 yards and had 8-10′ wavetrains, waveholes, or holes I wouldn’t want to surf.

Pillow, Lost Paddle, and Iron Ring were horrifically big and the noise in the rapids was deafening. I remember paddling hard into Pillow, vaguely making out the top of Pillow Rock, and cresting a breaking 10 foot wave that stopped me…just before a 25’+ wave caused by VW Rock collapsed on me and ripped a hand off my paddle. I got absolutely chundered by that wave but rolled up and got away from a terrible looking 8′ pourover 1/4 mile downstream. The freeze-frame image of that house-sized wave about to crash down on me still sends chills down my spine!

Lost Paddle and Iron Ring were also huge but they went well. The line in Lost Paddle was pretty much the same as it always is, except we had to scramble to get left of the submerged Mail Slot. Sweet’s Falls was a hole about 8 or 10 feet tall, and Postage Due rock had about 2 feet of water going over it, creating a horrible hole. The quote of the day came from Bryan Kirk: “It’s kind of like an IQ-test, and we failed.”

We paddled on down to Wood’s Ferry, surfing huge green glassy waves, pulling aerial tricks, and took out 16 miles downstream of the dam, 2 1/2 hours later.

I don’t think I’ll paddle big water like that too often, as I don’t like being in the middle of a huge rapid with no eddy options or any way to to get help in the event of something going wrong. Lots of stuff relying on luck in those situations.

Here are some photos of a quick session at the NOC wave in my new Rev M-Long.
Photos by Casey Jones

Good lines out there