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Supplement to “Connecting at Union College”

by Andy Messer, director of outdoor programs and assistant professor of recreation management at Union College

Think you are outdoorsy or perhaps know you’re not but would like to venture out more? Here’s a fun way to learn to talk the talk even before you literally walk the walk, or for that matter, boof the canoe.

Abseiling: (a.k.a. rappelling)

ATC: Air Traffic Controller, a common belay device used by climbers.

Belay: To protect a climber or rappeller from falling. Belay me with that ATC.”

Boof: to paddle a kayak or canoe off a drop in such a way that the boat lands flat, rather than “penciling in” or landing nose first. (Boof is also the name of Professor Messer’s dog.)

Caving: The sport of exploring caves, often mistakenly referred to as spelunking.

Creeking: paddling low-volume, high-gradient mountain streams, often involving hucking.

Dig: A site at which cavers are attempting to open a previously unknown cave or a previously unknown passage in a known cave. “I saw her hauling a lot of explosives and crowbars and stuff, so I figured she must be on her way to a dig.” Not to be confused with DUG: the Dayton Underground Grotto.

Energy Drink: See Plan B.

Fun: A line of whitewater kayaks made in different sizes: Fun, Fun 1, 2 Fun, and Super Fun.

Gravity: Mountain bike racing disciplines—downhill and dual slalom—that involve no uphill riding. “I’m only riding gravity this year. Forget XC!” G also stands for grotto: a caving club affiliated with the NSS.

Hucking: Paddling a kayak or canoe off a waterfall with blithe disregard for life and limb. “Did you see the video of those two dudes hucking themselves off Cumberland Falls?” Hucking off any roadside waterfall previously scouted by noted professional kayaker Clay Wright may be referred to as a “Clay Wright Park-and-Huck Special.”

Injury: What happens to spelunkers, and to practitioners of the Clay Wright Park-and-Huck Special.

Jacked Up: See injury.

Kayaker: A person involved in creeking, hucking, or other whitewater river activities, possibly in an OX, X, Y, Z, or Fun, often in West Virginia, and usually through the good graces of a shuttle bunny.

LNT: Leave-No-Trace, the prevailing ethos of contemporary wilderness adventurers. “Those spelunkers weren’t exactly LNT, if you know what I mean.”

Missed the Line: Failed to make a necessary paddling move. “That guy in the OX missed the line on that V and blew the boof, so now he’s jacked up.”

New River: The oldest river in North America. Though the New flows across three states, the section favored by kayakers is located in West Virginia.

NSS: National Speleological Society, the organization to which most American cavers belong.

OX: The Overflow X, a whitewater kayak from the late ’90s, not to be confused with the X, an entirely different whitewater kayak from the late ’90s. “Andy paddled an OX until he got his Z.”

PMG: Pine Mountain Grotto, the local chapter of the NSS. “Dr. Taylor and Professor Messer are charter members of the PMG.”

Plan B: Sitting in the Jacuzzi with a favorite beverage, the favored activity of most PMG members. “Well, since we couldn’t locate the cave entrance, I guess we’ll have to revert to Plan B.”

Pro: rock climbers’ shorthand for “protection,” devices placed to arrest a climber’s fall.

Piton: (n.) a particular type of old-fashioned, non-LNT pro, or (v.) to paddle a kayak head-on into a rock.

Quitting: Reverting permanently to Plan B.

Rappelling (not Repelling): An oft-misspelled word for descending a vertical drop by sliding down a rope in the controlled manner, which our British friends insist is actually abseiling. “Cavers get into vertical caves by rappelling. Spelunkers, on the other hand, are repelling.”

Shuttle Bunny: A non-paddler, typically a spouse or significant other, recruited to ferry cars from the put-in to the takeout by kayakers. “Contrary to popular belief, shuttle bunny is not a gender-specific term.”

Spelunkers: Teenagers who equip themselves for a cave trip by stocking up on intoxicants, spray paint, clothesline, and (maybe) one weak flashlight for every three spelunkers. “Cavers rescue spelunkers.”

Trad: Short for “traditional,” a style of rock climbing in which climbers place pro as they ascend and then remove it when they’re done with it, so as to practice LNT. “Seneca Rocks in West Virginia is strictly a trad scene.”

User Fees: The pay-to-play scheme by which wilderness enthusiasts are charged money to enjoy the public lands their tax dollars paid for to begin with, typically used, in turn, to fund schemes to pave over the wilderness.

V: A visible shape of waves or ripples on a whitewater river. Upstream-pointing Vs indicate obstacles, usually submerged rocks. Downstream-pointing Vs indicate an unobstructed channel. “All you’ve got to do to make it through this rapid is to hit the V and boof the drop, and then we can find our shuttle bunny, load up your X and my Y, and go to Plan B.

West Virginia: Almost Heaven.

X: The most popular kayak of the late ’90s, not to be confused with the OX. Also, XC:Mountain bike racing discipline otherwise known as cross-country and involving, duh, riding cross-country. “I ride XC. Gravity is for wimps!”

Y: A popular kayak for steep whitewater. Dude, if you can’t boof a Y, you shouldn’t be creeking.

Z: A popular whitewater kayak. “Andy paddled a Z until he got his Super Fun.” Note that this kayak is called a “Zed” by our Canadian friends.

To read the Kentucky Living February 2009 feature that goes along with this supplement, go to Connecting at Union College.

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