Marie McAden



Outdoor Insider braves the Tyger at whitewater event

Posted 4/17/2012 11:17:00 AM

I came, I paddled, I conquered. And boy, was it fun!

This weekend, I participated in my first Tame the Tyger River Race and Festival in Spartanburg. Joining me were 190 other kayakers and canoers eager to run 7.75 miles of this Class I and II whitewater river. It was the biggest turnout since the event started 13 years ago.

I am happy to report that I managed to stay in my boat through all 10 rapids, avoiding the carnage that turned paddlers into swimmers. For those who didn’t fare as well, safety boaters were positioned at all the major whitewater spots ready to rescue anyone who needed help.

The event was divided into two categories — racers and floaters. More than 60 kayakers and canoers competed in the race. The rest of us made our way down the piedmont river at our own pace.

To make things more challenging for the racers, the floaters were cut loose first, providing moving obstacles for the competitors to maneuver around. Of course, we tried to give way to paddlers hustling to the finish line, but when it’s all you can do to keep from dumping out of your boat in a rapid, survival takes precedence over courtesy.

Not 10 minutes after getting in the water, I came to a pour over with little or no horizon line — an intimidating sight for newbies like me. Despite my trepidation, I got through it with just a minor splash.

Next up was the first shoal with a significant drop. I was already sweating the rapid when the paddler I was following turned over at the bottom of the drop. Halfway into the run, I was unable to put on the brakes and give him time to clear. Fortunately, he was an experienced kayaker and quickly rolled over, allowing me to pass through without incident.

The mother of all the rapids came just before a bridge. By that time, I had five good Class I and II rapids under my belt and was feeling confident. I ventured into the squirrely water and down the chute, bracing with my paddle when the water tried to kick me over. I remained upright, but it was a close call.

Rapid nine, while not as large, proved to be one of the trickiest. The current was eagerly flushing boats to the right bank, over the drop and into a tree growing out over the river. I could see several boats were pinned under the foliage, so I took the line through the middle and escaped the trap.

By the time we arrived at the festival site three hours later, most of the racers were already enjoying their barbecue lunch. The overall winner came in at 1 hour 17 minutes.

I don’t anticipate joining the racers any time soon, but I’ll be back to Tame the Tyger again next year. Hope you’ll join me. You’ll have a blast!