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2010 starts 'rapidly' along the Winnipesaukee River



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Colorful kayaks bounced their way through the raging waters of the Winnipesaukee River on New Year's Day as large crowds watched from the shore and cheered them on. Donna Rhodes. (click for larger version)
January 06, 2010
NORTHFIELD/FRANKLIN — While the 2010 New Year's Day temperatures were warmer than last year, most people wouldn't have considered it ideal kayaking weather. For the hardier enthusiasts of the sport, however, it is a tradition to paddle the icy waters to demonstrate their love for the sport.

For 29 years the Merrimack Valley Paddlers River Run has attracted white water enthusiasts and spectators alike. Some kayakers paddled the quieter waters from Route 140 to Riverfront Park in Tilton while others chose the Class III and IV waters between Cross Mill Road in Northfield and Trestle View Park in Franklin. There, crowds along the river watched as the kayaks bounced and splashed their way through the final rapids, cheering them on as they made their way to the park.

Betty and Bob Pauwels of Franklin arrived early to get a good spot along the banking. Bob said they try to come down to the river every year to watch and always enjoy the day. This year Betty had a new camera and she was eager for the kayaks to appear so she could try out her new equipment.

"I love this but I think they're crazy. It's a tradition though and something they've been doing for a lot of years. We love watching them," she said.

Spectators were soon treated to the first of many kayaks, which rounded the bend and tackled the raging waters a little after 11 a.m. Don Amato of Westford, Mass., was among them, saying it was a little "chilly" but not bad out on the river. He reported the water levels were good- enough to make it a fun trip and yet not too high to make the trip too fast to enjoy.

"This is a fun thing," he said. "Down on the ocean people jump in and I think they're insane, but this? This is fun!"

Roland Soucy of Belmont is a kayaker but didn't see the fun in battling frigid waters to enjoy the sport, choosing to watch from dry land instead. New to the sport, the older gentleman admired those who braved the icy waters, however, and thought it was a terrific way to spend the start of a new year.

Fellow spectator Mickey Beriau of Plymouth said he had read about the River Run for awhile and decided it was time to come and see it first hand.

"We got up this morning and I asked my wife what she wanted to do. I suggested this and she agreed. This is a lot of fun to see," Beriau said.

Guy Larivee of Hampton stood on the riverbank, scanning the white water for a more personal reason though. His 21-year-old son Chris and two of his friends were among the groups of kayaks participating and he was anxious to see him arrive safely.

"He's been paddling a long time and been doing white water for about four or five years now. As a parent you're always concerned but, like anything else, they have to challenge themselves. It's better to watch than to be home waiting to hear how they did," Larivee said.

It wasn't long before he spied the trio as they came into sight for the final stretch. Pulling their kayaks ashore in the park, the three had such a good time, they decided to load their equipment and go back to the launch site for another run.

"That was great but it's only the first lap for today," said Jeff Cain, one of the younger Larivee's paddling buddies.

Larivee and Ben Natusch said they have been white water paddling at least once a month for 34 months now, just for the pure enjoyment of the sport. Temperatures were much better than last year and so they were anxious to take advantage of the day and make another run while they could.

A few tense moments occurred when a kayak appeared without a paddler. Overturned by a rock near the end of the run, the man made his way out of the water and soon appeared to retrieve his kayak, none the worse for the experience thanks to his dry suit and proper equipment. The mishap did have Franklin Fire-Rescue members mobilized temporarily, in the only close call of the event.

All in all the day was a success with more spectators and kayaks than last year. Participants swapped tales of their trip through the rapids in a warming tent set up by Choose Franklin. There they were treated to hot drinks, chili and black-eyed peas while they thawed from the icy adventure. As one by one they loaded up and headed for home, the kayakers vowed to return next year to start 2011 as many of them have started the past several years - running the rapids of the Winnipesaukee River.

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