The river level has gotten down to its summer time low. It is still a ton of run to run; it’s just a lot more physical work for the guide and is a longer day out on the water. We run four days a week, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday on a dam release from Lake Abanakee down the Indian River three miles to the Hudson. This time of year we have to stay on the release water as it travels downstream. We call it staying on the bubble. Now, being at the top of the bubble is optimum, however when your guest paddle through the rapids to get the good hits, your boat moves faster than the water is flowing, and we tend to paddle off the front of the bubble. Which is actually no problem because you just stop paddling, sit on a rock until the water comes up and you drift off the rock. You do not want to get behind the bubble because once the water has passed, you can’t really catch up to it.
So today we got way ahead of the release. It was fascinating to see the rapids before most of the water gets there. Of course on the camping trips, you get to watch the water drop and you see the spot your are camping in with just the natural flow, but it is very different to be in the bigger rapids an see this. The steepest rapid is Givney’s and seeing it ahead of the release was mind blowing!
Normally there is a fun little wave sometimes small hydraulic hit at the very bottom. There is a rock you can pull your raft in behind and actually jump off into the current to float down into the giant calm pool at the bottom. The rock is flattish, just s few inches above the water’s surface, with enough room for a couple of people to stand on. When you get a little bit ahead of the release, this hit becomes Bubble Beater; a wicked fun surf!
Today however, this last little fun hit was insane! The little rock was steep and standing 6 feet or more out of the water. It has a twin partner (I’ve never noticed before) across the channel where the little wave usually is. This far ahead of the release, between these two rocks is a four or five foot vertical drop into a what looks like a nasty boat munching hydraulic. I have never seen this intense side of this feature before and I am transfixed.
Another guide and I were at the front of our group, both of us having the intention of surfing Bubble Beater, until we saw it. You never saw two rafts change speed, direction, and intention so fast. We were both able to sneak around the drop and pull in behind the rocks on either side. There were a couple of other guides in play boats with us as well. They each had also pulled in behind the now giant rocks and had climbed up on top of them to offer encouragement. I sat in the eddy behind my rock and and the other guide sat in the eddy behind her rock, both of us staring at the churning behemoth hydraulic between us.
The guys standing on the rocks were laughing and yelling at us to “Go for it!”. The other guide and I were laughing and yelling back “No Freaking way!”. Our guests were also highly weary of putting themselves into the boiling frothing convulsing hydraulic.
We waited. We watched. The water rose. The character of the hydraulic shifted, morphed into something more surfable, and we both went for it! It was one of the best surf ever!
The water rose some more and with it other rafts started coming through the rapid above us. The hydraulic changed some more and spit us out into the calm pool. Our guests were completely pumped and so were we! What an amazing experience!