College Ambassadors

A Different Kind of White Water

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The bright yellow kayak thrummed as the power of the wave surged through it, sending the kayak and its pilot launching beach-ward. I steadied myself against the waves and tried desperately to frame the moment. I swore as a wave sent me tumbling just as I clicked the shutter… another dub. We had been at Cape Hatteras for 2 days as part of a 3 day photography and kayaking expedition.

“Alex I messed up the shot, you’re going to have to try again,” I yelled over the roar of the breakers.

“Seriously dude?!” yelled back Alex in an exasperated tone.

“Sorry! I keep getting hit by waves,” I responded.

“Okay, I’m heading back out.”

Alex dragged the kayak back into the ocean. After playing tug-of-war with the breakers for about 5 minutes, he managed to wrestle the boat into calmer water. He then hauled himself into the boat and grabbed a paddle. As he paddled out further from shore, I attempted to root myself onto the sand bar I had chosen as my vantage point. The shot I wanted required steady footing, not unwarranted rogue waves smacking me in the chest.

Alex flew by me, a streak of yellow against a backdrop of blue. I watched in horror as the wave broke and the prow of his kayak submerged under water. Alex was ejected from the kayak, flying air born and splashing down just as the wave carried the out of control kayak into his landing zone.

“ALEX!” I yelled.

No response.

“Alex, you good?!” I yelled again, searching for any sign of him.

Just as I began to think of what I might say at his funeral, I spotted him.

“Alex!!” I yelled, waving my arms frantically.

He gave me a thumbs up, and pointed towards the shore. We met back on shore and found the kayak.

“You good?” I asked Alex.

“Yeah man, I’m good,” responded Alex, “I somehow avoided being hit by the kayak.”

“That’s probably a good thing,” I responded in a snarky tone, “Who else could I get to do this?”

“Oh yeah, did you even get a shot of me almost dying?” asked Alex.

“Nope, but I have one of you upside down if that’s any consolation.”

“Well, I guess that’ll have to do for now, let’s take a break.”

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I agreed, and we both walked towards the dunes to retrieve our towels. As we dried off, we went over what shots we had gotten so far, and what we were still looking for. Alex decided he wanted to get some shots of me kayak surfing, and I decided we should do some night photography with his DSLR. Once this was decided, we packed up our gear and dragged the kayak down the board walk all the way back to camp. Once there, we showered and decided to find a restaurant. We left our kayaks and tent in the camp area, but loaded our camera gear into the truck.

“Any idea what you want to eat for lunch?” I asked Alex.

“No clue,” responded Alex, “actually wait I do…something cheap.”

“Sounds good to me.”

We peeled out of camp and made our way south down the only real road on Cape Hatteras, Highway 12. We headed towards Ocracoke Island, and ultimately decided to use the free ferry and cross over onto Ocracoke for lunch. We waited at the ferry docks in the sweltering heat of summer, blasting music and eating crackers and half melted cheese.

“Damnit, why did we have to miss the last ferry by 2 cars?” asked Alex.

“Because Murphy’s Law,” I responded, absentmindedly watching a spider crawl across our windshield.

Eventually, a ferry docked, the gangway was lowered and we were ordered to board the vessel. We parked near the bow of the vessel and got out. It was a beautiful day, even with all of the heat. The sun was now just past its zenith, and there was a slight cooling breeze as the ferry made its way towards Ocracoke Island. After another 45 minutes of absentmindedly watching spiders and the occasional small vessel pass us by, we docked at Ocracoke.

Now back on the road, we began looking for suitable places to eat.

“Seafood?” I asked.

“I said cheap,” Alex retorted.

“You do realize we are in one hell of a touristic place for cheap food right?” I asked quizzically.

“True, but I don’t really like seafood anyways, and hey look it’s one of those beach access entrances for cars, do you wanna try driving on the beach?”

“Uhh… this is a 2 wheel drive truck Alex, is that such a good idea?” I cautioned.

“Nahh, it’ll be fine,” Alex waved his hand like he was swatting away my pessimism.

He aimed the truck towards the beach access and immediately regretted his choice. The vehicle slid about 20 feet down the access way before entrenching itself in the soft sand. Alex floored it in an attempt to unstick the truck.

“Alex stop, you’re making it worse!” I yelled.

“Well shit…” was Alex’s only response.

“Get out,” I ordered.

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Both of us exited the vehicle and got on our hands and knees to see where the vehicle had beached itself.

“Alex, start looking along the side of the road for anything like sticks or planks of wood that can help give traction. I’m going to let some air out of the tires, it’ll give us more surface area and hopefully more traction.”

As Alex went off to find sticks, I stared at the magnitude of the annoyance he had caused. Damnit Alex I whispered, maybe the kayak had hit him after all. I set about letting air from the tires, causing an acrid musty smell to settle over the entire scene. Alex returned hauling what appeared to be a small tree.

“You found a tree?”

“You said find sticks,” whined Alex.

“….That’s a tree.”

“Well, whatever. We can break it into pieces, and holy cow what is that smell?”

Alex caught a whiff of the air that had been let out of the tires, and wore a horrified expression upon his face.

“Oh yeah that, looks like you ran over a cat as well,” I stated.

At the horrified look on Alex’s face I laughed and ordered him to start handing me sticks.

“We need to start wedging the branches on either side of the tires to give us traction, once that’s done I’m going to ask you to push the truck while I rock it on the accelerator. Got it?”

Alex looked slightly puzzled by my terminology, but nevertheless nodded that he understood.

“YOU READY?!” I yelled, “OKAY GOGOGO.”

I carefully applied the accelerator and heard branches snapping as the truck climbed out of the hole it had dug itself. The truck inched through the sand in reverse, and after several painful seconds at redline, the truck made it back onto asphalt. The tires wailed in distress at the sudden traction, and the truck shuddered slightly. I switched out of the driver’s seat and we made our way back to the docks, completely forgetting about lunch. As it turns out, sometimes hunger is overshadowed by the experiences that become unforgettable. And sometimes an experience doesn’t truly become an adventure until all of your plans go wrong.