A German in the rapids

“Did you know that the Germans brought kayaking to the Ottawa River”, a kayaker asked me while we were preparing to jump with our boats into the rapids of the Ottawa River. I didn’t know – and I’m German, more precisely: a German exchange student taking summer courses at Carleton University. So to my surprise, the middle-aged white-haired man with sunburned arms then told me that in fact Germans were the first to discover the rapids of the Ottawa River two hours upstream from the capital city. Knowing that it was my folks who kayaked here first, I was even more motivated for my adventure. Mathew the president of Carleton University Kayak Club planed to take us from the starting point called “McCoy’s” down to the rapids called “Push Button”, where the paddlers wait in lines to catch a standing wave.

It was my second time out in the river and only my fourth time kayaking – which was pretty amazing for me. To “be safe” in the wildwater, we had to learn the Eskimo role, where you pull yourself out of the water with your paddle after your boat flips over. I learnt the role within two lessons in Mooneys Bay. I was really proud of myself – until I could convince my roommate Steve to take summer lessons too: He was able to roll himself up on the air after only one lesson. But Mat assured me that we both were really talented and that some people never learn it.

I didn’t believe it before I went for the first time in the rapids but you definitely need the Eskimo role a lot. It is quite difficult not to flip over – even crossing only a small rapid. I remember, that I was almost more time under the water then above the water, when I went out on the river the first time with Mat’s crew and some other beginners. But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t fun out there. It is awesome to fight against all the little waves. Everytime, when I was able to keep my head out of the water, I paddled out of the rapid with a big, happy smile.

And besides, I never felt unsafe: Mat and his crew always had an eye on everybody. They know how to fish struggling and anxious beginners, with no breath left to do the roll and have to get out of the boat and swim, out of the water.

I didn’t only enjoy the paddling, I also enjoyed the great Canadian outdoors which we were surrounded by. On my second trip, we camped next to the river and had a fire in the night with some beers and kayaking adventure stories. While we were running down the river, we were the only paddlers on the water – it was such an awesome, relaxed time.

The highlight of the trip was being able to surf one of the standing waves the current forms on several points of the river. I can tell you, it is really hard to get in, but when I surfed it, it was an amazing feeling. I was jealous of the people who were able to stay for minutes in the waves. But that was also inspiring for me to go on – and as I learnt that Germans are big paddlers, I’m sure that I will find some waves in Germany too.

Finally I just want to thank the Carleton Kayak club and its awesome people. Me and my roommate had a great time paddling out in the Ottawa river. Merci beaucoup!!