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As many of you know, the Upper Gauley is by far one of the coolest rivers on the East coast. Not only does it provide some of the best big water around, but also allows for some “sneaky creeky” moves. My first time down was during the Gauley Fest of 2016 (Maybe a little late to be writing this, haha!), and I was a bit nervous and antsy to get in at the put in. Fortunately, paddling with the Ottawa Kayak School Keeners took all but the healthy nerves away. In the beginning, we were broken into small groups, so it would be easier to go down, as opposed to one giant blob of people. I was in Stevo’s group, which we named ‘Team GNARwal’. As we put in, the first rapid, initiation, and a few grade III rapids served as a good warm up for the stuff down stream. I was happy to be in my playboat (It was hot pink, and one guy even mistook me for a girl, but who cares? Pink is AWESOME!!!) and took advantage of all the play features down the way. When we got to Insignificant, The first grade V, I was very loosened up and relaxed. There were a few nerves, but all of the members of team GNARwal were having a great time going down. Insignificant was very big, but it was more of a fun run than an I-just-want-to-get-down-and-not-die-or-crash run.
The next rapid, Iron curtain, was big, fun wave train. I would describe it as a big fluffy monster that likes you.

Fast forwarding, Team GNARwal, having happily completed the first parts of the river, finally came to the infamous Pillow Rock rapid. I was not too nervous looking at the river, because my attention was diverted to the sick lines and not-so-sick lines. Some of my favorites to watch were the slice boaters trying to splat pillow and instead landing some awesome carnage, and of course, the rafts. People would try to jump into them, flip into them, etc. Also they would flip, which was always fun. Finally, we got to run it. Pillow rock looked huge from the water, and the waves were like rollercoasters. The pourover on the right was…big, and it was fun to watch unfortunate boaters get beat down and claim it if they swam. I did not go into the room of doom, due to the fact it was my first time down.
Then came Lost paddle, which Stevo told us was the longest rapid. The first and second drops were fine, but on Tumblehome, my sister flipped above a pourover hole, and got pulled back in. I boofed onto her, pushing her out, but getting me stuck. I was getting window shaded and endered, and was a bit scared because there was talk of a sieve downstream of me. After about fifteen seconds, I flushed out, and felt grateful to the fact that I had not been there longer. I burped a few times quietly, a personal after-effect of carnage, and continued the run.

The last big rapid was Sweet’s Falls, which was a drop into a curler which went into a hole. As we passed a rock on the flatwater before, someone yelled, “No pipeline, raft pinned on rock!” Sweet’s Falls went by very fast. We later saw a blue lump under the water, which was the unoccupied raft. Someone boofed off of it, so it must have made a nice boof. The last few rapids were grade III cool downs. We took out at the Lower Gauley put-in and shared our stories.
Special thanks to Jackson Kayak, Kokatat, and OKS Keeners for an awesome time on the river.