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Off the Tongue



THE GUY BESIDE ME in this pho- to is Patrick Hagg, a web analyst at the federal Institute of Health Research. He has a degree from a good school. He is married and has three beautiful children. His family runs, skis, snowshoes, spins and is training for alpine trekking. They are going to climb Bishorn, a 4,153-meter moun- tain in the Pennine Alps in Swit- zerland where he will celebrate his 40th birthday. Demographically speaking,

the Haggs should be a whitewa- ter family. Except Patrick’s nev- er paddled whitewater before. Patrick followed my friend,

photographer and longtime raft guide, Rob Faubert out of the city. Rob and Patrick work in the same department, two desks away from each other. I’d roped Rob into coming to the Hell or High Water festival to shoot some photos and help me test the new Aire Sabertooth (reviewed in Rapid, Early Sum- mer 2014, www.rapidmedia. com/0284).

Patrick spent his youth

dreaming of being a National Geographic photographer and came along to shoot the ac- tion to add to his portfolio. At the last minute he threw in his diving wetsuit and a downhill ski helmet. Where the Petawawa River

snakes through the town of the same name,

there’s a perfect

venue for a large-scale white- water event. The municipal walking and biking path winds past a perfect amphitheater rock right beside Lovers—the most exciting and biggest rapid of the section. Crowds gather to cheer rac-

ers, secretly hoping for carnage in the Windigo Hole or the three raft-munching waves below. After Rob and I had ran the

Sabertooth inflatable cataraft down a few times we told Pat- rick to get his gear out of his car. We paddlers talk a lot about

growing the sport and getting new people into whitewater. Truth is, it’s not easy.

You either take them to quiet

class I and II and spend your pre- cious weekend teaching strokes and maneuvers in a friendly, safe and boring environment, or you run them down bigger sections of rivers you’d rather paddle. They swim lots. Anxiety and exhaustion overrides ex- citement and exhilaration. Real learning is low. Very few return. Patrick, however, is hooked. “I think first hand exposure

is what did it. Being able to go down these huge rapids in a small two-person raft as a newbie gave me an incredible feeling. I played a role in suc- cessfully riding the rapids.” We ran him through big rap-

ids, but didn’t send him by him- self. He learned about reading water, because I was right there to teach him. It was exciting for him, yet not too scary. Whitewater tandem canoes

in capable hands can work the same way. Inflatable ducky kayaks are very stable and confidence in-

spiring. No cockpit means no skirt and no fear of being stuck inside. Self-rescues are easy. We just received for review

a shipment of Fluid Kayaks’ Do It Now sit-on-tops, which offer this same freedom but paddle like hard shell whitewater kay- aks.

Industry rumors suggest

we’ll see more of this type of boat on the market in 2015. I don’t care if we’re creating a whole new category of white- water boats or if they’ll be step- ping stones. If not for the Sabertooth, Pat-

rick and his family wouldn’t be joining us at the Upper Gatineau Whitewater Festival. If not for a boat that made him feel safe enough and excited enough, he would still only be dreaming of riding the rapids. Scott MacGregor is the found-

er and publisher of Rapid mag- azine. Soon he will let Patrick know that we don’t call it riding the rapids. Baby steps. | 11

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