Art and text by Adam Nawrot

The Whitewater Tribe

The Club Beater

An empty kayak and loose paddle are usually good indicators that the Club Beater is just upstream ready to make an appearance. Happy to pay his paddling club’s participation fee every time he boats, the Club Beater paddles the same stretch of Class II+ every other weekend during the summer (note that the Club Beater does not paddle through the winter). Scared off by fellow club members’ warnings of undercuts and ‘weird currents’ on other rivers, the Club Beater does not stray from his now familiar stretch of riffles. A misled champion of the mantra “catch every eddy, surf every wave,” the Club Beater relishes in introducing new paddlers to the sport, but shames them from progressing past the club’s collective level of mediocre paddling to retain membership like it’s their job. All things considered, the Club Beater is living proof that ignorance is bliss, and they’re probably having a better time on the river than you.

Lingo: Eddy / River-Play / Combat Roll / Pool Session / Membership Fee / Lunch Break / Sweeper / Drain Plug / Carp / Yard Sale

Stomping Grounds: Allentown, PA / Richmond, VA

Dreams of: Memorial Day Barbecues / Snowy Seal Launches / Dry Hair Days

The Hole Hog

The Hole Hog favors a balance of low consequence and high skill over adrenaline-fueled exploits of some of their whitewater counterparts. Their keen sense of boat control and cat-like reflexes are matched only in potency by their tolerance for the mundane. Undeterred by the mind-numbing act of surfing the same wave over and over again year-round, the Hole Hog could probably put the local creeking scene to shame if they could just muster up the nerve to run ‘the sh*t.’ Instead, the Hole Hog spends their days repeatedly waterboarding themselves as they try to stick their ‘Phonics Monkey’ to ‘Space Godzilla’ combo, which they totally would have gotten if they didn’t leave their over-thruster at home. Don’t count on them for a shuttle, their playboat takes up the whole back seat of their sedan.

Lingo: Rodeo / Park & Play / Surf / Air Screw / Blunt / Cartwheel / Pan-Am / Pistol Flip / McNasty / Helix – Felix / Loop / Space Godzilla / Phonics Monkey / Lunar Orbit / Bread & Butter / Macho Move / Party Surf

Stomping Grounds: Ottawa River, Ontario / Skookumchuck, B.C. / Missoula, MT / Colorado Front Range

Dreams of: Glassy Waves / Performance Cars

The Sh*trunner

It’s sometimes tough to tell whether the Sh*trunner’s fearlessness is the product of years of disciplined whitewater pursuit or the side effect of a constant state of mild inebriation. One thing’s for sure, the only thing more impressive than their willingness to taunt death is their ability to turn up at the after-party. The Sh*trunner lives for “steezy boofs” and “brown stouts” but often spends more time driving and hiking to the put-in than in their kayak. After years of dirt-bagging, the Sh*trunner has finally given into pressures from parents and significant others to get a ‘real job’ and now makes ends meet as a nurse at the local hospital where their absentee record curiously mirrors the rainy days of the forecast. Check out the Sh*trunner‘s latest shaky GoPro shr-edit on their crew’s Facebook page, but go ahead and keep the speakers on mute.

Lingo: Stout / Brown / Steezy / Boof / Church / Jah Bless / Stomp / Ball / Hyphy / Footy

Stomping Grounds: White Salmon, WA / Asheville, N.C. / Pucon, Chile

Dreams of: The North Fork flowing right into the Little White / Potential Mates Responding to their Kayaking Skillz

The Open Boater

Like the Telemark Skier or the Single-speed Mountain Biker, the Open Boater has elected to make their life more difficult in the pursuit of aesthetic. What that aesthetic is, however, isn’t really clear as the Open Boater isn’t exactly paddling a hand-built wooden canoe or something. It often seems like the choice to impose artificial challenge on themselves stems from a self-reconciliation that they don’t have the chops to push the envelope of their discipline’s more conventional counterpart, but maybe there really is some sort of special magic to paddling a bathtub that needs constant draining down a river. Whatever the case, you’ll be getting a lecture on the merits of open-boating soon enough. Expect river trips to take twice as long when paddling with the Open Boater as they stop after every rapid to dump their boat.

Lingo: Wait for me! / Outfitting / Foam / Thwart / Yoke / Swamped / Cross-Bow / Dry Line / Airbags / T-Grip / No-Pumps

Stomping Grounds: Chattanooga, TN

Dreams of: Getting into Fly-fishing / Electric Pumps

The Raft Guide

What started as a fun summer job during high school has spiraled out of control and left the Raft Guide with neither money nor degree four years down the line. Having perfected the art of subtly slipping ‘tip your guide’ into their standard repertoire of stories, the Raft Guide has saved up enough cash over the summer to hitch a ride to the mountains where they’ll be working the same seasonal gig they worked last winter at the ski resort. A perennial schemer, the Raft Guide is constantly coming up with new ideas to earn a buck. Just nod politely when they start telling you about how they’re going to make some money growing weed before moving to Thailand to live like royalty off their savings, “I heard that a dollar here is like … at least $1,000 there.”

Lingo: High Side / Rad / All Forward / Take a Break / Get Down / Gnarly / Done with That? / Groover / Tip Your Guide / Hey, Man

Stomping Grounds: Buena Vista, CO / Banks, ID / Fayetteville, WV / Flagstaff, AZ / Moab, UT

Dreams of: Indoor Plumbing / Dory Guiding the Grand / Employers who value river resumes

The Slalomist 

The Ivan Drago of the whitewater world. Speculated to have been raised in a lab, the slalomist knows only one true love – training. Adhering to a strict workout regimen, the slalomist is unamused by your latest Facebook ‘dawn patrol’ post, and has logged his first set of laps long before your alarm clock even sounded. With the ability to sink a stern like a U-Boat and make turns on a kopek, the Slalomist possesses a certain type of athleticism unadulterated by the bravado and ‘balls’ of their Red Bull-fueled counterparts. It’s probable that the Slalomist would preform at a high level on the daring Class V pursuits of the Sh*trunner, but doing so would expose them to too great a chance of injury – an unacceptable reality that would jeopardize chances of taking the gold at their next event. Catch the Slalomist running laps on the same artificial Class III feature in an effort to bring pride to their motherland.

Lingo: Gates / K-1, C-1, C-2 / Fiberglass / Threshold / Heart Rate / Peak / Slicey / Squirt / Attainment / Draw

Stomping Grounds: CzechosloHungaria / Artificial Whitewater Training Centers Near You

Dreams of: Olympic Gold

The Zombie

The Zombie started boating well before you were even a twinkle in your father’s eye. Having exhausted pretty much all there is to do on the river, the Zombie has now taken to entertaining himself under the river. By using ancient Chinese foot-binding techniques to force himself into a surfboard-sized airplane wing painted like a hot rod, the Zombie now spends their days at the local ‘arena,’ where they hold their breath and spin around in circles in what amounts to a weird tribal dance that seeks to grant them passage to ‘The Underealm.’ During the week, the Zombie tries to use the Mystery Move as an example of hydrodynamics in the Physics class that he teaches at the local university, but the analogy does little more than further confuse his students who can’t wrap their heads around why someone would participate in such an obscure niche of an already obscure sport.

Lingo: Mystery Move / Underealm / Floaters / Metalflake / Eddyline / Whirlpool / Seam / The Slab / Zombies / Flinching / Jet Stream / Arena / Down Time

Stomping Grounds: Summersville, WV / Portland, ME

Dreams of: Blackholes / Gills