Kayak enthusiasts hit Oconee rapids
There are many different recreation activities that Georgia College students can compete in. However, not every sport that students enjoy are available in collegiate or intramural teams. For those athletes, their main drive is not commitment to a team or a league, but pure love of the sport. A group of Georgia College students that play their sport not on a field or a court, but on the wild rapids in a kayak, know how this feels.
“It reminds you that life is real,” sophomore environment science major Sam Ovett said. “When you make a mistake out there it means something.”One of the more “real” sports out there is whitewater kayaking. One man, one boat, and one rush. Georgia College has some of the most fearless athletes that you have never heard of involved in a sport unbeknownst to most. They don’t pack out the Centennial Center or fill the stands for games on the diamond. They are athletes who compete with two of the most deadly opponents, themselves and Mother Nature. Local kayakers are in a panic as their field of play is being threatened.
Georgia College’s kayakers will soon be losing the Oconee River if a proposed coal fire power plant goes into effect. In Jan. 2008, 10 electric membership co-ops joined together under the name Power4Georgians. If this plant is built, at its peak will use 16 million gallons of water a day and admit 6 to 7 million tons of carbon dioxide annually.
For Milledgeville residence the Oconee is the closest river with decent white water rapids. Kayakers and anyone who uses the river could see it dried up within the year and not have the means to satisfy their sport.
“Water has always been my playground,” senior liberal studies major Matt Heath said. Heath has been kayaking since his freshman year at Georgia College when he attended a VentureOut kayak camp in the summer of 2008. Returning from that summer, Heath knew his passion was discovered.
“It helps me live in the moment,” Heath said. “I forget all other problems and I concentrate on interacting with the river.”
Fellow paddler, Ovett also uses the water as his field of play. Ovett started boating when he was 13 years old by the persuasion of his brother to attend a kayak camp. After their first experiences in the water, both paid the initial investment to get the appropriate gear and have been satisfied ever since.
Today both students are river guides in the summer, Ovett guides on the Nantahala River in North Carolina and the Ocoee River in Tennessee. Heath is not too far in West Virginia guiding on the New River and the Gauley River.
“This is my profession right now,” Ovett said. “If I am gonna be on the river I want to have the best skills.”
If Georgia decides to build their eleventh coal power plant, than boaters like Ovett and Heath will lose their domain. The Oconee is adored by the local boaters because of the accessibility. To have a river with rapids that can range up to a class 3 so close to a college campus is a dream come true for paddlers.