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Going Under

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As I catch a glimpse of the white foam ahead of me, my stomach muscles tighten up and my mind begins to race. My breathing becomes quick and shallow. The sound of the water grows softer and softer, the only sound I hear is the steady beating of my heart. Thump thump. I hear voices ahead of me, screaming, but I cannot stop. Thump Thump. I hit the wall of water and I feel myself falling backwards towards the light and with a splash, I’m under.

It was on a Saturday in late July 2006 when my kayak, known appropriately as the “Sound of Suffering” capsized and became trapped under a life raft on Hawaii Five-O, a rapid on the Pigeon River. After I rolled back up from that first flip I lost my paddle, the crucial item for a kayaker. My vision was blurred and I had a headache, but I could see a large yellow object that I was about to crash into. As my boat nosedived into a hole (a swirling mass of water which is very tricky to get out of), I flipped over again, but when I tried to stick my hands out of the water to sign for help, I felt a hard rubber surface on my fingertips. I suddenly realized that I was under the large yellow object, and that there was no way I could get out without help. The current under the life raft was so strong that I could not reach forward to pull the grab-loop that would detach me from my boat. I couldn’t breathe. My lungs were struggling for air and there was nothing that I could do about it. I began to wonder why I had even gotten in the water in the first place. Was it worth risking my life for? At the time, I didn’t think so. Eventually, the raft above me shifted and I was able to grab my loop and escape back up to the surface of the water. I could not have been under for very long, even thought it seemed like hours because I remember coming up from my boat and having the strength to yell expletives at the raft guide. I used whatever strength I had in me to loudly scream out my emotions to the guide and his tourist companions. However, one of my instructors interfered and dragged me to the bank with my half-sunken black boat in tow. It took five minutes for me to empty my boat of all the water in it, because the current had filled it almost to the brim with icy water. However, I did not have time to think thoroughly about what had happened to me because I had to get back in the boat and prepare to go down the final rapid, Powerhouse. There was no getting out, there was no stopping because of the pain. When I lowered my boat into the river, I made an agreement to stay on it to the end. The only way to get back to civilization from the river itself would have been to climb about a quarter of a mile straight uphill through bushes and trees, and being injured there was no way I was about to do that as well as desert my group. I had to find strength to go on, and with the support of my friends, I managed to climb back into the Sound of Suffering. By the time I had fully prepared myself to continue down the last, and similarly challenging rapid, the raft guide had gone and continued down the river, sparing himself from whatever I might say to him after I had recovered. I managed to paddle down Powerhouse without flipping and without sustaining any other injuries.

That potentially fateful day made all of kayaking worth it for me. It is the negative times that make me appreciate life and what I have, because on any day I know that the water could capsize my boat and take me away. I embrace the fact that I fight against nature every time I climb into a boat. The trials that I have to go through when I paddle make me a stronger person mentally and physically, and my time under the life raft makes me appreciate more and more the power that nature has over me. In the end, the suffering is worth it and the pain is bearable, because I realize that kayaking gives me much more than just stories and injuries. No matter what obstacles I may face, I know that I have will always have the strength and desire to go on.





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