AN UNEXPECTED PIN ON THE LOWER GAULEY
On Friday, September 27, 1996, group of five strong paddlers were running the Lower Gauley at the normal release level of 2800 cfs. Two of the paddlers had run the Upper and Lower Gauley many times, one was an expert open canoeist, and the other two were advanced kayakers. The run had gone well until the Class III rapid just above Pure Screaming Hell when, Al Kubeluis reports:
“I was going over what looked like two smooth, one-foot waves when I hit a rock just under the second wave. I went underwater instantly, and was pinned. The bottom of my Dagger RPM was forced against an undercut rock, stern up, bow down, with me pressed against the back deck by the current.
”I hit the rock so hard that my friends heard a very loud crash. The solid plastic nose of my RPM was compressed on one side.”
Kubeluis dropped his paddle and tried to exit, but could not reach the grab loop because the water was pressing him against the back deck of his kayak. Though his friends paddled up river to near where he was pinned, they could do nothing to extricate him from the worst pin they had ever seen in all their years of kayaking.
He finally pushed himself out of his kayak with his legs. The swim and rescue were uneventful.
Kubeluis reports that the rock is difficult to spot, “This dangerous rock is hidden just below a smooth wave. A trained, experienced river runner, paying close attention might detect clues and avoid this danger. “
He urges paddlers to exercise continued vigilance since the Gauley is strewn with undercut rocks and even simple Class III rapids can have serious consequences.
SOURCE: Al Kubeluis
EDITOR’S NOTE: Jackie Hoglund, responding to this thread on Rec.Boats.Paddle, reported that a friend once had a hard time popping a sprayskirt when the grab loop had been tucked in accidentally. He released the skirt by pinching material along the cockpit rim and pulling it out. I've used this technique myself at pool sessions, and think that everyone should try it, just in case.