This photo is from October 2005 – “Pillow Rock”, one of the class 5+ rapids on the Upper Gauley River in West Virginia. I’m the one in the right front of the boat (bottom right-hand corner). If you run this rapid aggressively, the object is to paddle hard straight into the big rock on the left, and let your momentum pop the front of the raft up as high as possible – sometimes the raft will get nearly vertical. The hope is that the rafters will remain in the boat while this is happening.
I’ve called this one “Summer Teeth” because that’s what I almost gave my buddy Tom on my left. Our guide explained that “Summer Teeth” is West Virginia-speak for one of the most common injuries sustained on the river – it occurs when the uncovered T-grip (handle) of a rafter’s paddle connects with the mouth of a fellow rafter. The result of the contact is “Summer Teeth” (“some are here, some are over there….”) Thankfully Tom was able to keep his pearly whites intact despite me taking my left hand off of the T-grip. Hey, I was just trying to stay in the boat – swimming through a Class 5 is no fun!