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By Lynn Kaiser Conrad Progress Contributor She’s helped three people in crisis, two in the Chattahoochee and one in the Hiawasee. All three individuals were kayaking, and none could swim and found themselves in seriously precarious situations. If you ask Cari Hedrick about kayaking, the words cascade out of her like a fast-flowing waterfall. She can’t curb her current of enthusiasm. Cari will also tell you she started kayaking a little late in the game, at 40 years old. As a fish takes to water, Cari took to kayaking. She has a multitude of watercraft which serve different purposes. Cari has one for whitewater (her baby), one for fishing, one for touring, one for tricks (flipping and rolling), one for training children, and two crossovers, which adapt to different water conditions. “Kayaking is on your level. You can have a sit-in or sit-on boat with or without back support, and kayaks come in all sizes and weights, so it’s important to select one that you can handle physically and financially,” Cari said. Kayaking is both a competitive sport and a recreational activity. Maybe because kayak is a palindrome there is a paddle on each end of the oar. Nonetheless, this activity continues to grow in popularity. While kayaking has been around for 4,000 years, according to Statista, in the U.S., in 2006 there were about six million casual kayakers. By 2022, that number tripled. Maybe kayaking has blossomed because people of all ages can participate or maybe because 50-75% of the human body is composed of water, and we are drawn to it, like a magnet to metal. Regardless of the reason, Cari loves to kayak, and she also stresses safety first. Cari, who lives in Jasper, was living on a lake in Woodstock when she saw a flotilla of youngsters with brightly colored kayaks, and she said to herself, I want one of those. So, she went out and bought an inexpensive kayak. Since then, her equipment, knowledge, and experience have significantly improved. In fact, Cari has been whitewater kayaking in Columbia, SC, Montgomery AL, and on the Nantahala in NC. Whitewater, rushing fast currents are ranked from I to V, and any level requires experience and specialized equipment. Cari believes it is often in calm waters, where the surface is flat, that people get themselves into trouble. Calm waters equate to complacency. Below the sleek surface, all types of perils can exist such as currents, trees, rocks, and aquatic animals. Hence, Cari always wears her life jacket. Cari is part of Kayak Georgia and other groups where kayakers connect. One planned trip took Cari to the Okefenokee Swamp. “It was gorgeous and terrifying because the alligators were right there. The water is black so you can’t see below the surface. One gator jumped right next to me and luckily did not hit my boat. I’m glad I did that trip, but I’m not going again,” Cari said laughing. Cari believes in the buddy system because it is just good sense to be on the water with someone. Cari has been on lakes and rivers all over the southeast and her favorite kayaking spot is the Cartacay River. In January, she had an incident. The river was running high and rushing hard. In hindsight, even with all her experience, Cari admits she had no business being on that water. “I had just invested in a $400 paddle. I flipped and got caught in a whirlpool. I couldn’t get myself in a ball. I was being thrown around too much, and I was going down. I thought this was it. Somehow, I got myself out of the spiral and swam to the rocks. My paddle was long gone, and my kayak buddies were able to catch my boat,” Cari remembers. She had to walk about a mile along the shore, lugging her boat. Thank goodness she was wearing her proper paddle shoes. The missing paddle was an expensive loss. Then, the first week of June nearly 5 months later, Cari received a phone call from a kayaker who asked if she lost her paddle! “I paint my phone number on my equipment, just in case, and it paid off. Kayakers can be friendly people,” Cari said. Cari has several suggestions for the novice kayaker. “The north Georgia rivers are rocky; always wear your life vest and a helmet,” Cari said. She has several helmets; one offers full face protection; the others have a bill or visor which acts as a warning signal. She also recommends that your drybag, which should be clipped to your kayak, carry a few essentials including a throw rope, a knife, sunscreen, and drinking water. “My favorite place to kayak is the Cartacay River because there is just enough excitement, and it’s beautiful. I find my peace and calm there,” Cari stated. She says that north Georgia is full of picturesque rivers. Just pick one and go kayaking.

Good Vibes: Cari Hedrick takes to kayaking like a fish to water

By Lynn Kaiser Conrad, Progress Contributor

She’s helped three people in crisis, two in the Chattahoochee and one in the Hiawasee. All three individuals were kayaking, and none could swim and found themselves in seriously precarious situations.

If you ask Cari Hedrick about kayaking, the words cascade out of her like a fast-flowing waterfall. She can’t curb her current of enthusiasm. Cari will also tell you she started kayaking a little late in the game, at 40 years old.

As a fish takes to water, Cari took to kayaking. She has a multitude of watercraft which serve different purposes. Cari has one for whitewater (her baby), one for fishing, one for touring, one for tricks (flipping and rolling), one for training children, and two crossovers, which adapt to different water conditions.

“Kayaking is on your level. You can have a sit-in or sit-on boat with or without back support, and kayaks come in all sizes and weights, so it’s important to select one that you can handle physically and financially,” Cari said.

Kayaking is both a competitive sport and a recreational activity. Maybe because kayak is a palindrome there is a paddle on each end of the oar. Nonetheless, this activity continues to grow in popularity. While kayaking has been around for 4,000 years, according to Statista, in the U.S., in 2006 there were about six million casual kayakers. By 2022, that number tripled.

Maybe kayaking has blossomed because people of all ages can participate or maybe because 50-75% of the human body is composed of water, and we are drawn to it, like a magnet to metal. Regardless of the reason, Cari loves to kayak, and she also stresses safety first. Cari, who lives in Jasper, was living on a lake in Woodstock when she saw a flotilla of youngsters with brightly colored kayaks, and she said to herself, I want one of those. So, she went out and bought an inexpensive kayak. Since then, her equipment, knowledge, and experience have significantly improved. In fact, 

Cari has been whitewater kayaking in Columbia, SC, Montgomery AL, and on the Nantahala in NC. Whitewater, rushing fast currents are ranked from I to V, and any level requires experience and specialized equipment. Cari believes it is often in calm waters, where the surface is flat, that people get themselves into trouble. Calm waters equate to complacency. Below the sleek surface, all types of perils can exist such as currents, trees, rocks, and aquatic animals. Hence, Cari always wears her life jacket. 

Cari is part of Kayak Georgia and other groups where kayakers connect. One planned trip took Cari to the Okefenokee Swamp.

“It was gorgeous and terrifying because the alligators were right there. The water is black so you can’t see below the surface. One gator jumped right next to me and luckily did not hit my boat. I’m glad I did that trip, but I’m not going again,” Cari said laughing.

Cari believes in the buddy system because it is just good sense to be on the water with someone. Cari has been on lakes and rivers all over the southeast and her favorite kayaking spot is the Cartacay River. In January, she had an incident. The river was running high and rushing hard. In hindsight, even with all her experience, Cari admits she had no business being on that water.

“I had just invested in a $400 paddle. I flipped and got caught in a whirlpool. I couldn’t get myself in a ball. I was being thrown around too much, and I was going down. I thought this was it. Somehow, I got myself out of the spiral and swam to the rocks. My paddle was long gone, and my kayak buddies were able to catch my boat,” Cari remembers.

She had to walk about a mile along the shore, lugging her boat. Thank goodness she was wearing her proper paddle shoes. The missing paddle was an expensive loss. Then, the first week of June nearly 5 months later, Cari received a phone call from a kayaker who asked if she lost her paddle! 

“I paint my phone number on my equipment, just in case, and it paid off. Kayakers can be friendly people,” Cari said.

Cari has several suggestions for the novice kayaker.

“The north Georgia rivers are rocky; always wear your life vest and a helmet,” Cari said. She has several helmets; one offers full face protection; the others have a bill or visor which acts as a warning signal.

She also recommends that your drybag, which should be clipped to your kayak, carry a few essentials including a throw rope, a knife, sunscreen, and drinking water.

“My favorite place to kayak is the Cartacay River because there is just enough excitement, and it’s beautiful. I find my peace and calm there,” Cari stated. She says that north Georgia is full of picturesque rivers. Just pick one and go kayaking.

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