Jolly Green Giants
Canoe duo nabs tandem first on Southeast classic
[The following story originally appeared in the August issue of Canoe & Kayak, now available on newsstands.]
On May 27, Atlanta electrical engineer Burton Greer, 27, and Nathan Zumwalt, a 33-year-old teacher from of Asheville, N.C., made a little open-boat history with the first complete OC-2 run down the Green River Narrows, including the notorious crux at Gorilla (pictured and described in the paddlers’ words below). The two met, and canoed together, for the first time on a quick Saturday Cheoah lap in Greer’s 13-foot Esquif Blast. The next day they tackled the Green. You see, as Zumwalt says, “the single blade inherently offers greater challenge. It’s because of this challenge that the rewards are more satisfying.” — DS
Burton Greer: Sunday arrives and I’m skipping church to once again go to the river. Finding a lefty canoeist to paddle tandem was going to be difficult, but finding one willing to attempt what I was proposing brought the list to a short few.
Nathan Zumwalt: The Green had been on my list ever since I saw Eli Helbert paddle his open boat in the Green Race. I couldn’t think of a reason why not.
BG: We get a slow start, putting on about noon. The dam release ends at noon, so the water is about to cut off. Nathan is in the bow and I talk him through each rapid. We’re going well.
NZ: Most of the rapids are finesse and boat control. Gorilla was the one that gave me pause—continuous and ridiculously steep and committing. You must read the water and anticipate how the boat will react. Have the correct lean, throw the right stroke.
BG: It’s pushing 1:30 when we approach Gorilla. The water is dropping, so we have to go.
NZ: Everything I’d heard about the Notch was that it was unpredictable. With a raging current and Gorilla proper 15 feet downstream, it’s an open-boater’s nightmare. But Burton had demonstrated that he knew the lines and had a solid low brace. ‘Get me through the Notch upright, and we’ll be fine,’ I said. His confidence that we could clean the Notch made Gorilla a go.
BG: Right knee up, lean left, and we’re through the Notch. We’re coming in hot and direct, and now have to turn the boat before going Christopher Columbus off the shelf. Paddles down, pull, and pry. Bow starts back-left, brace like hell—
NZ: It’s reassuring to have a solid brace on both sides of the boat.
BG: Paddle and elbow scrape the shelf as we drop into the curtain. Land, lean right into the wall, but we’re going over left. Instinctively I start to roll over for my onside, but remember to get back to the left. I switch hands, push and we roll up with Andy on live-bait holding the Blast’s bow rope. We did it, but we have to keep moving.
CHECK OUT THE FOOTAGE FROM THE ENTIRE THREE-FLIP, ONE-SWIM RUN: