Here’s a December Turd for you. Happy holidays.

Recently I was going through some old photos and came across these, from my first real whitewater paddling trip. This is summer of 1993 at the Nantahala.

My parents got me this Dagger canoe as a high school graduation present. I had originally wanted the boat to fish out of on the New River. Little did I know how much fun it was going to be just to paddle it.

In the photo below, from left to right is Chris Copenhaver, myself and my father, Johnny. Chris sold the boat to my folks in addition to introducing me to several creeks and rivers when I first started. He was also a teacher and coach at my high school, which is how I got to know him. What an incredible guy to whom I owe many thanks.

My Dad had always talked about canoe racing on the Nantahala. In 1975 he and his friend Jimmy Cottrell were the Southeastern US canoe champions. The race was held on the Nanty and they won in an 18’6″ Moore, fiberglass canoe. Before 1993 whitewater paddling, canoeing and the mighty Nantahala were all legendary, ficticious even, to me (though I had seen photos). This particular photo was taken during the Southeastern Nationals in July of 1975. They were to compete in the Nationals in mid-August but my birth intervened. Sorry Daddy!

Chris, my Dad and I headed down to the Nantahala for an intro to whitewater weekend. My Dad smoked a cigar the whole way down the river. We flipped two or three times and swam but he never lost the cigar. Now that’s commitment. Notice how cozy and agreeable that horse collar pfd looks on him. It’s as if he’s right back in 1975.

Chris paddled one of the hottest kayaks out at the time, Dagger Response, milk jug color.

After some coaching from Chris, my Dad and I finally figured out how to front surf that 16′ canoe.

Of course, Lesser Wesser falls was the big hoorah at the end. We went right through, no problem.

I even learned how to side surf that day. What a bizarre concept at the time.

My Dad and I were amazed at these “pop-up” things Chris was able to do in the falls.

Thanks so much to my Father and Chris for the best paddling trip of my life. Notice the gloves, important for canoeing the Nanty in the summertime.

Yesterday I paddled the Toxaway with some of my best friends. As my Dad noted recently, It is truly amazing how far the sport has come in 13 years.


Spencer Cooke,

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