Some Thoughts on the West
1. Every year, after about my second run, I start to remember the rapids. Then I don’t come back for a year.
2. If you are with a group that doesn’t want to hike up and run the top rapid, find another group. An open boat is no excuse.
2a. Because that’s the best rapid, that top one. The dam. The chaotic eddy scene. The horizonline. The wave train. The surf wave. That steep right turn just below, with the big pourover on the right, where the river’s at its pushiest. I could spent all day up there.
3. Has the West always been so warm? That was bathwater.
4. Here’s how you know you’re getting old. You pull something in your neck . . . before you put on the river. Maybe it was a “riding shuttle” injury? Maybe it was a “standing in line for shuttle” injury? I’m 36, by the way.
5. Nowhere else in New England do you see what you see at the West. NOWHERE. I saw at least four tandem open boats. I saw at least twenty C-1s. I saw at least 100 solo open boats. There were duckies . . . and shredders . . . and riverboards . . . and stand-up paddle boards.
Where are all these people from? Why don’t I see any of them on the Dryway?
6. My gear is sort of locked in the mid-2000s. I need to get me one of those new river runner boats. Party Brrap, Ripper, Axiom . . . They look fun. That’s a good trend. I never liked the whole microscopic playboat era.
6a. I would never buy a Jackson. Nothing personal. But the whole smiley face icon thing . . . just the wrong branding for me.
7. The best move at the Dumplings is the old school ender in a long boat at the ender spot near the bottom. The second best is the pillow move in the center slot at the top. The least best move is what every single boater in this video is doing.
8. Hit the boof at Boof Rock and then turn around and catch the big wave right below and you are doing just fine.
9. Real slalom boaters walk the shuttle . . . with no shoes.
9a. Real open boaters pull their canoe on a cart, then fold it up, and put it in the boat. Done and done.
10. I love burgers. I consider myself a burger connoisseur. Here is where you can get some of the best burgers in Vermont: the Three Penny Taproom, the Farmhouse, the Worthy Burger. Here is where you can get the best burger in Vermont: the food stand at the West take out after a long day of paddling. Food never tasted so good.
11. They used to hold the slalom National Championships and US Team Trials on the Dumplings. A lot. That fact that they stopped says nothing about the West. It says everything about slalom’s priorities. Instead of beautiful rivers like the West or the Savage, now we race on plastic legolands like Charlotte or concrete ditches like Dickerson.
12. In fact, lots of interesting stuff happened at slalom races on the West. Jim Snyder first conceived of squirt boating at the West, while watching a racer inadvertently dip his stern. Eric Jackson, founder of Jackson Kayaks, met his wife at a race on the banks of the West.
13. Sometimes I hear people brag on the shuttle about how many runs they’ve done. Seriously? If you’re doing more than about three runs, you are not working the river enough. Learn to catch eddies.
14. You never appreciate what kind of shape you used to be in until you can’t make the same moves you used to. I could see where I wanted to go, I just couldn’t get there.
15. Jamaica? Where the hell did that come from anyway?
16. I tired myself out pretty quickly and just started began floating. That was within sight of the put in.
17. If I had to pick one event that really captures the essence of the boating community in New England, in all its quirkiness and character, I’d pick West Fest.
There’s just something about it.
It’s a river that brings us out.