Idiot Tubers on the Nantahala
Among paddlers, a distinct system of classification has developed for those who share in the growing popularity of whitewater rivers. At the top of the social scale, of course, are those who paddle kayaks, the "yakers." Slightly below are those who paddle solo canoes. Tandem canoes are frowned upon, although they are grudgingly accepted into the family in the manner that the owner of a sports car might be forced to buy a station wagon for hauling the kids. Near the bottom of the scale are rafters, tourists knowing little or nothing of whitewater whose rented, inflatable barges serve only to clog the river and force yakers to yield their favorite play spots.
And at the very bottom of the social structure, despised even by some of the rafters, are tubers.
Tubes don't manuever well. Tubes flip over, especially when they go into the dreaded Tube Hole. You've got to have a wetsuit on the Nantahala or you'll freeze. You'll never get into the Olympics in a tube. Sure, we could get down the river faster and with far more grace in a canoe or kayak--but that would be just a little too trendy.
Decked out in neophrene and bright colors, with helmets and webbed gloves and cool shades, we show the yakers the true meaning of cool. One by one we sweep around that s-turn into the roar of Nantahala Falls in front of an astonished crowd, and ride the bucking waters without a scratch (okay, we do fall off, but hey, that's life on a tube). We can't deny our watery roots.
We are tubers--tubers by choice--and tubers we shall stay.