As I loaded my boat on to the car Friday night, thoughts of Oceana and Bridal Veil zoomed through my mind. I always have a strange mixture of fear and excitement when I’m about to run a new river. Running class 5 for your first time is like running your first river, you never know what can happen. I had many professional boaters tell me that I am completely ready for Tallulah, so in the back of my mind I knew I could do it, but fear is a hard thing to conquer. The whole ride to the river my dad and I were jittering with excitement. As we pulled into the parking lot, we saw how many people were there and felt a little bit more safe. So we geared up and got ready for the dreaded hike. As soon as I started down the stairs, I could already tell it was going to be horrible. The beautiful view of the gorge took my focus away from my burning calves. When I finally reached the bottom of the stairs, I couldn’t tell if my legs were shaking with excitement or pain. I watched a few people run the first rapid, and decided to hop in my boat. I ignored the shaking in my legs as I climbed in my kayak. As I launched into the water, I thought to myself, “Its now or never.” We chilled in the eddie for about 5 minutes to wait for a couple of friends, then we headed down. After watching my dads’ less than perfect line, I pealed out into the flow. I aimed in between two rocks in the center, and nailed my line. I immediately screamed with joy at the bottom of the rapid. The fear began to fade as I launched off of Tanners Boof, but I knew the fear would soon return when I see the next rapid. Sure enough, when I got out to scout Oceana, I went silent. I could not tell if I was scared, nervous, happy, or excited. All I knew was that I must run it. As I was watching people run it, Lance came up to me and asked, “Do you want me to portage it with you?”
“No way man, this is what I came here for!” I replied.
“Aw man! Now I have to run it, too!” Lance says. So we climbed in our boats together and pealed out. As I sat at the top, my mind went blank of everything except my line. I paddled up the rooster tail, and let myself fall. Nothing seemed to exist except for the massive fall in front of me. I noticed that I had a little bit too much left angle, but I didn’t have time to fix it. I slammed into ‘The Thing” and kept sliding my way to the bottom. I got hung up in the hole, but I rolled up and surfed out. I screamed with joy and hugged Lyle at the bottom. All of my fears were completely gone. It was the best feeling in the world knowing that I have conquered my greatest goal. I have been dreaming of this moment since I started kayaking. After watching the rest of my crew nail perfect lines, Luke came up to me and asked, “When did you get that giant dent in the back of your boat?” I must have done it when I hit the thing with too much angle. We all started laughing because it took us almost ten minutes to notice it. My dad said it gave my boat personality, but I thought it looked pretty stupid. After draining boats and watching a few more people run Oceana, we headed down river. Every rapid afterwards was filled with boofing and laughter. As the fear drained out of me, I started to loosen up. I noticed that my paddling was getting better when I was this calm. I was nailing all of my lines and having fun at the same time. I could tell that my dad was still pretty nervous after his skirt imploded at the bottom of Oceana, but everyone else seemed to be having a blast. Towards the end of the run, Dad began to loosen up too. Eventually, we were all messing around and having fun. When I hit the lake at the bottom, I couldn’t believe that I had just run Tallulah. I had a permanent smile for the rest of the day. I will never be able to describe how I felt that day.
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Garrett Madlock 13