Water has always been a mystical element to me, I once heard it perfectly put ” The River is our church, we are the river shaman. Without us, “normal folks” would never get to see or experience the river like we do. We are the link between man and Mother Nature. That in my eyes is what it’s all about.”- Ryan Charbonneau.
My first time rafting I was 15 and my mom took me to Costa Rica down the Pacuare River. I remember not ever feeling any kind of rush like that in my life. I was addicted and knew I wanted more white water adventures. I was never a very confident or athletic girl growing up. If someone would have told me I would make a career out of commanding a boat full of adults and my stringy arms would be controlling over 400lbs in a rubber raft I would have laughed in your face. I struggled with believing in myself or knowing my true potential. I could never have predicted how a body of water could transform and mold me into someone I never thought I could be. I came to the Ocoee River four years ago, scared and weak but with a passion to break out of my shell and no clue of what I was really getting myself into. I spent four months vigorously training, & with plenty of encouragement from my friends and family I accomplished something that I didn’t think I would. It was during my training days that I discovered how strong I really could be and tapped into my unknown confidence. Suddenly material objects didn’t seem to matter much to me anymore, only experiences and the bliss of the river.
Rafting brings out the little kids in everyone; It brings out joy, laughter, adrenaline and sometimes fear. Rafting pushes the limits for everybody in a way they could never have expected and gets people working as together as a team. This is one of the endless reasons I love this sport. I have seen people from all walks of life leave the river realizing they are stronger then they could have ever dreamed of. Helping folks get a huge daily dose of Mother Nature while watching them glow with excitement is an indescribable feeling. Water has its own language and a lot of people would never be able to safely connect with the rapids as close and personal without the help of us guides. We learn where every rock is and how to handle any potential dangers we might face while playing out in the wave trains and surfing major holes. Being able to bring families into the heart of the river and rapids brings such happiness and fulfillment to my life.
The river community is another part of this lifestyle that I have not seen anywhere else. Maybe it’s our knowledge of the potential danger hidden in plain sight with water being as unpredictable as it is. Despite all the inherent risk we face with our beloved sport, passion perseveres and makes this community one of the most family oriented group of people I have ever come across. The river people don’t hesitate to take care of their own and inspire each other to reach new potentials. There is so much passion and love its hard not to feel and bask in it.
Rafting might not be for everybody, but I could only hope that anyone we guide down the river discover they are stronger, faster, and braver then they could have ever imagine. I hope it motivates them to break out of their shells and try new things. Most importantly I hope they are inspired to return and maybe even one day learn the rivers language and share the joy of the river with others. The river is a powerful force to be reckoned with, I couldn’t be more humbled to be able to share this gift with others.