One of my favorite things to do is white water kayaking. There is something thrilling about the contrasting serenity of nature and the rapid bubbling waters that require focused navigation.
I prefer kayaking to rafting, but have happily enjoyed both. With rafting there are several others with you that you depend on, as opposed to being a little more in control of your own destiny in a single kayak. More often than not on guided rafting trips you are with people you don’t know. You’re blended in with others and forced to work together nary knowing their names much less how you’ll function as a team.
On one particular rafting trip we were expecting level four and five rapids. Level five is the highest level of white water generally safe for experienced adventurers, so we were expecting some nice rapids. Class six is considered un-runnable by most people, with extreme danger.
We were guided as a group into a practice run for “surfing” before we went into the most dangerous spot. Not every trip includes surfing because it’s very specific to how high the water is and the rock formations under the water that create a swirling, sucking tornado beneath. For fun, you navigate the tip of the raft into the suction and it holds you in place, the raft tilts forwards and the back rise’s up. Waves crash and spray douses squawking passengers. For some it’s fun and others it’s a harrowing experience.
Before you go in, you’re given detailed instructions and you have a choice to join or wait on the waters edge. Naturally, there are safety measures: life jackets, kayaking guides paddling along -side for rescue and what is called a chicken rope. It’s a secure line that runs the circumference of the raft. In general, if you happen to be tossed over you can grab onto the chicken rope and others will pull you back aboard.
However, when it comes to surfing the opposite is true. You DO NOT grab the chicken rope. With surfing, you let the waters carry you down the river to be retrieved. The reason being is that the suction in a surfing situation will suck you under if you stay there holding onto the rope.
We managed the first surfing experience fine as a group, so we had the opportunity to go into the most dangerous spot called “The Washer”. This was more dangerous because not only was the water swirling, there was also an up and down motion and the waters were much more fierce because of the surrounding rock formations.
A few people opted out, the rest of us remained.
The waters were really rough and it took the guide along with the rest of us several tries of paddling hard to get caught in the washer.
It was precarious and bystanders were cheering us on from the rocky shore. There was an uproarious round of applause we could barely make out over the roar of the crashing waves. Moments later I was tossed overboard and on instinct I grabbed the chicken rope.
I don’t know how long I was under, but I was struggling hard and for the first time on one of those trips I thought with astonishment, I’m actually going to die. That’s when I felt a hand on mine that I initially thought was trying to pull me up, but then realized they were trying to pry my grip loose. Then I heard the muffled voices shouting, “LET GO OF THE ROPE!! LET GO OF THE ROPE!!” It finally clicked. I let go, popped up and floated safely down the river.
Sometimes in life we just need to let go. When we have suffered hardship in our lives we have the propensity to hold on tight because it gives us a sense of control and safety. There can be a precarious internal battle between control and surrender.
Ask yourself, do I need to hold on tight or is it safe enough to let go?