Respecting white water

Professional and amateur kayakers doing flips and rolls in the bone-chilling waters running through Vail Village make it look easy. Position yourself in rolling whitewater, lean forward, pop back and (hopefully) land upright. Piece of cake!

But earlier today, as part of the team at the Teva Mountain Games, I squeezed into a whitewater kayak to gain a new appreciation. In a controlled environment (a heated swimming pool) with an instructor by my side I was given some initial instruction before trying to roll upright.

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Playboaters on Gore Creek in Vail

Being the first person in the pool, I had the “honor” of showing off my hip-twisting, elbow-pointing, breath-holding skills first. More than a dozen close attempts later, I still didn’t perfect the art of the whitewater roll. It’s tougher than it looks and requires more finesse than strength.

The pros make it look easy. It gave me a new appreciation for the time athletes spend in the water. While I was far from chutes, holes and whitewater, I have a bigger respect for athletes in the thick of it — especially those like 29-year-old Drew Hunter who died doing what they love. Hunter’s body was found Friday downstream from the Class IV Fish Ladders section of Black Gore Creek where he and two friends were kayaking Thursday afternoon.

- Ryan Dionne