Labor Day with the Paddle Crackers. by Michael Potter 

Last year I had the opportunity to take Nick Bonner on his ‘Personal First Descent’ of the Nolichucky Gorge. At the first drop of Quarter Mile I tried a new line, in a new boat, and got a butt kicking Wallace for all of my valiant effort.

I ended up with the initial swim, plus three additional swims to retrieve all of my gear. (Can you say YARDSALE!) You can read about this fabulous adventure in a previous article Potter wrote last year called Four Times The Fun, Wallace on the Nolichucky Gorge. 

After that experience I didn’t think that Nick would want to paddle with a professional beater again. Well at least now I’m a sponsored professional beater, thanks to my friends Doug and Jen Watters at Madcap Helmets. Needless to say, I was a little bit stoked when Nick contacted me to get a PFD on the French Broad River.


I told Nick that I would be happy to lead them down, but at their skill level it was simple read and run. I was afraid that they would be disappointed for lack of big water.

We planned it for that Sunday, as they were running the Pigeon River on Saturday. I kept getting inquiries from people who were local to the French Broad, and by Sunday, I had a full solid crew. Shaun and Billie Mullins, Jeff Vannoy, and Jack Killman would be joining Nick and I, along with Lee Couey, Devon Bonner, and Randy Barfield.


The French Broad has something for every skill set. Surrounded by the beautiful scenery of the mountains, it has boofs, rock splats, creek moves, surfs, and attainments galore. If you just bomb down the river, it’s not too hard. If you wanna play, it can take all day, even then you won’t be able to hit it all.

Randy, Nick, Lee, and Devon showed up on time. We all dropped boats at the put in, and Jack and I drove to the take out to meet Shaun and Billie. This is one of the easiest shuttles that I know of, and river access in and out is 100 feet from the car.

With shuttle set and all introductions made it was time to paddle. The flow was around 1800 CFS; this brought in all of the good play spots, and some nice creek lines. The water temp was perfect short sleeve temperature, and the sun was shining warmly upon us. This would be a good day with friends and a great opportunity to test out my new helmet.


Jeff and Shaun are river players, they like to try every move possible, for this reason I lead Devon in their direction. Devon is young and solid, he also brought his playboat. I don’t get to see this young man very often, but I truly enjoy him being around. I think Nick has done a great job raising his son to be respectful of others and enjoy life. Devon fits in with us old folks just as easily as with those his own age. He is also a better boater than most of us self expressed beaters.

Nick is more like my style of paddling, a runner with a little play here and there. Randy is the boof/splat king, he can hit so many rocks that a boat will be paper thin in one season. His last boat had the longest split I’ve ever seen. I was amazed that Jimmy Jones could weld it well enough to hold, looked like 18 inches or so. (If you need welding done, Jimmy is the man.) It was my first time paddling with Lee. He had to find his own groove. (My apologies Lee.)


Jack and Billie were just out to enjoy a day on the water. I noticed several times that they took conservative lines and threw a little bit of play here and there to mix it up. Every boater has their own style of paddling. I have found that the best boater is not rated by the class of rapid he paddles. The best boater is the guy smiling with a story to tell at the end of the day.

NICK BONNER THE GOOD, THE BAD, & THE UGLY. Great #Wallace at the end


These Georgia boys truly don’t know how much it meant to me to have them come up to a home river and paddle with me. One of these days I’m gonna have to return that favor and go to Columbus to paddle with them.

I mentioned that I was trying out a new Madcap Helmet, well here is my assessment. The helmet is made of the thickest carbon fiber that I have ever seen. I absolutely love the simple strap design that holds it snuggly in place. It’s the lightest and coolest helmet that I have ever worn, so comfortable that you can forget it’s there sometimes.

Each and every Madcap is handmade by Doug and Jen with every safety aspect in mind. These helmets are made by boaters for boaters. Contact Doug Watters or his brother Jen Watters and order your new Madcap today. They even do custom colors.


EDITOR’S DESK: Associate Editor F. Wes Breitenbach travelled to the hills of North Carolina to get an inside look at Madcap production and speak with Doug. Madcap Article

Contact em. Tell em DBP sent you! MADCAP

  • Show Comments (1)

  • Gwen Butts

    Love reading your stories!

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