|Silliman on Sports
By Stan Silliman
The three day search for two missing canoeists on the Chippawa River in Wisconsin stopped yesterday. Why, you ask? Because the two canoeists never existed, that’s why. They were a product of a kayaker’s imagination. Again, Andrew Wallace, a kayaker, told police he fell into the river trying to save two men clinging to their canoe. An expensive air, land and sea search ensued for the men on the word of a KAYAKER!
Am I being harsh? Should we imply all kayakers exaggerate or that all kayakers are karazy? Let’s see? Squeeze your body into a wetsuit and then drop into a tiny little boat? Check. Put that tiny boat in very cold water? Check. Make the boat shark shaped just in case you might be floating in shark-filled waters? Again, check. Flip the boat over and paddle under water? Check. Scouting for water every time you drive over a bridge? Check. After your car wrecks, the first thing you check is to see if the boat is alright? Double check. Sex games involve tying up your squeeze with a taught-line? Check. Humming Weather Channel tunes? Oh, geez. Thinks driving a kayak makes you attractive to Salma Hayek?
Okay, the last one doesn’t belong. I just like saying Salma Hayek. But you get the idea. Kayak riders are goofy, obsessed, adrenaline driven ka-reatures. Take sea-kayaker, Freya Hoffmeister, for example. She circumnavigated New Zealand. Now, she’s crossing Australia. Part of her route takes her through the crocodile-infested Gulf of Carpentaria (seven days). That’s a lot of “Crickey” not to mention the sea snakes and the sharks. So, how does she sleep, you ask? Like a baby? Doubt it. More like her baby boy, who was strapped to her chest when she did parachute jumps, 500 times. If her kid doesn’t become an adrenaline junkie, I’ll stop eating peanut butter.
The sport is full of crazies. Ed Gillet is another one. In 1987 he paddled a kayak from California to Hawaii during El Nino. There was zero chance he could survive the trip, but he did. Thought to be a 40-day trip, he took 63 days, arriving in Maui with bloody hands and no land legs. He ran out of food four days before hitting Hawaii. Could you blame Ed for being late? Was it his fault the seas became calm and he couldn’t parasail part of the way? Do you blame Ed when his family contacted the Coast Guard, the Navy and Ronald Reagan to go on a search? Can you call what Ed tried the actions of a sane person? No, they’re the actions of a kayaker.
What would the Coast Guard do if there were no wayward kayakers? Last year they fished Russell Crowe out of Long Island waters. Big surprise, Russell Crowe, a kayaker? Hardly.
So having a character like Tao Berman, extreme kayaker, in our lives shouldn’t be a surprise, either. The 5’5”buffer than buff, Tao, likes to take his kayak over waterfalls, long drops into narrow ponds. Did his mom suspect he was gearing up for a daredevil life? She had an inkling when Tao, as a ten-year-old mountain biker, walked in with a rock embedded in his head and a chunk of flesh ripped from his side. Yeah, this kid is going to be a fate-tempter and proved so when he dropped off 75’ and longer falls, finally setting the world’s record at 98’ on the Upper Johnston Falls.
Are guys like Tao, Ed and Freya heroes, or just crazy? We say both. Sometimes you have to be crazy to be a hero. To many kayakers, these folks are definitely heroes. This may explain why Andrew Wallace felt compelled to make up his trying to save two canoeists story. He may have felt that if the police didn’t think he was a hero, they might have thought he wasn’t a real kayaker.
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|Silliman On Sports
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