At the conclusion of my interview with Jeff Larimer, I mentioned that I owned a tandem whitewater canoe and, ahem, would he like to paddle the Lochsa River with me? The answer was yes, and plans were laid for the following Sunday.
The river was low and rocky when we launched at the Fish Creek put-in. Jeff was in the stern, paddling on his weaker, left side because I’m right-handed and he is – how shall I put this? – somewhat more proficient than I.
We hadn’t discussed strategy in advance, so as we neared the first rapid, I asked if he wanted me to follow his commands.
“Nah,” he replied, “you paddle where you want to go and I’ll just follow along.”
As the rapids got trickier, and the river’s intensity swelled, it became clear that paddling in the same boat with Jeff Larimer is like having LeBron James on your Hoopfest team. Rather than brute strength, he relies on a crisp blend of technique and application.
We entered rapids at wildly aggressive angles, but Jeff worked the eddies and currents to straighten us out and push us downstream. When we needed more speed to stay on-line, the boat surged forward as if propelled by Poseidon himself. When I couldn’t see a line through the heaving rapids, the bow of our boat mysteriously swung around like the pointer of an Ouiji board – and we emerged unscathed.
Compared to Jeff’s C2 slalom boat, my whitewater canoe is like a semi-truck next to a Ferrari, but he never groused about the equipment. He just kept calm and paddled on.
I was beginning to harbor illusions of an incident-free run when we spilled out of the boat in the penultimate rapid. The day was warm and the river was low, so we dragged the canoe back upstream and ran Terminator rapid again, this time without incident. Then we sliced through Split Creek rapid in good style and, too soon, we arrived at the take-out.
For Jeff, it was just a casual day on the river.
Me? I was grinning like I’d won free beer for life after paddling a whitewater canoe with Jeff Larimer.
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