One random Saturday, my Hungry Boyz (a little group of friends who happen to be all male, ranging in age from 17 to 42) decided they wanted to paddle the UG. You are probably scratching your head wondering who in the world are the Hungry Boyz. They ARE boys, they are naturally hungry and I end up being River Mama on paddling trips. In other words, I make sure they stay in a group, behave in public, wash their dirty hands, and don’t piss their names in the dirt.
They insisted on this trip, even though there was an extremely narrow window of paddling time. On this day, the water was only going to be on for 2 hours. We live about an hour and a half away. So we get up before the damn country roosters and rendezvous in Morganton. 5 hour Energy and Monster drinks littered my Tahoe. When I pull into the parking lot, the youngest boys jump into my Tahoe and immediately make themselves at home. At least their mama’s could rest knowing, River Mama had custody of their babies.
Off we go and into the darkness, winding down unlit back roads, dodging the wildlife darting across the road to reach other fields. By daybreak, we reach the town of Saluda. The testosterone level has started to increase. I roll the windows down. Soon, we reach the take out to drop off my Tahoe. Everyone gears up and we literally pack into my friend’s Expedition. A few jacked up turns later, we reach the put-in. We unload and carry our boats down to the funky little access just below the dam. It’s now 8:05am. The water was supposed to be on at 8:00am. Reluctantly, I send one of the boys to wheelhouse to check on the delay. 10 minutes later, he finally returned with a pouty look on his face. He said he had bad news. There was a school group (on Saturday), taking a tour of the facility. Per Duke Power policy, the wheels could not be operational while visitors were touring the wheelhouse. The testosterone levels really began to elevate. Before I knew it, one of the boys said he was going to join the tour. The next thing I knew, I was chasing after all these boys, yelling at them to behave or else I would beat their asses. What a sight to see.
We tour the wheelhouse and too my surprise, the boys actually behaved. Only once did I threaten to place my size 10 Brewers directly upon their buttocks. Anyway, the facility coordinator felt bad our paddling was delayed. Once the tour was over, he gave us time to get back to our boats and await the flood. He turned the water full on! Stoked we paddle out. Aside from babysitting teenage boys and grown men who think they’re teenage boys; I was paddling with a tender shoulder, moderately fresh gash in my right thumb (USNWC concrete), and getting used to a brand new boat. Considering how the day started out, all signs would have spelled out, “STAY HOME”. Yeah, right!
We paddle a bit and eddy out. We decide to practice our roll in a section that resembles a small pool. Damn, that water was cold! A little incentive to stay upright—no boat booty shows. Eventually, we make it to the rapid that robbed me of my dignity: Wanda’s Hole. I understand she likes to hang on to your things if you decide to go for a swim. I went for a swim. This swim was not like any other swim. This one was particularly violent. When I went over, my tender shoulder contributed to a failed brace attempt. Once over, I try to roll but to no avail. On the second attempt, my sprayskirt imploded. The force of the water rushing in sucked me out. Suddenly, I was thrust into a temporary moment of animated suspension. I remember my right arm sweeping outward. Evidently, I was under my boat when I did this motion, effectively hooking my already injured thumb onto the lip of my boat. The current pulled the boat one way and me another. I felt a pop and then pain. Swimming in this frigid water was not I had in mind for cloudy Saturday morning. Aggressively swimming river left, I notice my boys were collecting my boat and trying to herd me to some rocks.
I drag my ass up on the rocks to assess my injuries. This was the first river test of the Astral Brewers. No slippage, with the exception of my expletives. Geez! Remember that gash from the US National Whitewater Center concrete river? Well, Wanda re-opened that injury with some added bonuses. Not only was the thumb dislocated, it was medically an avulsion. Blood ran down my hand and dripped into my water swamped boat. Bloody, flippin’ river! I stood up to assess whether or not I could continue on. Um, that would be when the EXCRUCIATING pain from my dislocated and bloodied thumb radiated throughout my entire body. It took me to my knees. I could not even make the motion to grip with my right hand.
Knowing the water would turn off in an hour; I grew impatient with pain and disgust at how I nearly ruined everyone’s trip. In fact, I had to threaten to beat up my Hungry Boyz if they didn’t go and leave me alone. We were too far down river to turn back, but not far enough to get past Bayless Boof. The boys paddled on pouty and worried about me. It was kind of sweet and cute, but I didn’t have time to get all soft and mushy. I sent them with explicit instructions to pick up my Tahoe (in one piece) and return to the put in. Sitting upon the rock of pain, I began to assess my surroundings and plan my hike back with my boat, paddle, and jacked up thumb. You better believe my plans took into careful consideration the gear I was wearing, to include my Brewers. I knew the Brewers were super sticky and had a reputation for being a tough paddling shoe.
I had to get out of there. It started to rain. Curses! I stuck my thumb in the cold water to the point of numbness. I made the decision to “pop” that sucker back in. OMG!!!@#$%&^%$#@#$%…the pain nearly made me throw up. I put my thumb back in the water and assessed my options. I fashioned a homemade splint with sticks and leaves. Step by step, I was able to hack my way through the woods and around rapids, boat and paddle in tow, wearing my grippy Brewers. There were times, I know I would have slipped and fallen back into the water and most assuredly drowned wearing anything else. These shoes are on point. By the time I get back to a place I could cross the river, I did without fear of slipping. By this time, the water had subsided substantially.
My Brewers held every step with conviction. I write this review with conviction to thank Astral for such an outstanding shoe. They kept my feet comfy and prevented me from slipping. I WILL BE PURCHASING ANOTHER PAIR!!! I WILL BE ENDORSING THIS SHOE!!! LOVE IT LOVE IT LOVE!!