The Laugh of the Water Nymph by Doug Ammons
In this collection of short stories, Doug Ammons takes the reader through his twenty years on the forefront of expedition paddling. For those of you who are not familiar with him, Doug began paddling in the early 80s with many of the early big water paddling legends, like Rob Lesser and Bob McDougal. He has since pioneered a number of big descents, including the first self-supported descent and a solo descent of the Grand Canyon of the Stikine in British Columbia.
The book is a series of short stories that begins with his days as a new kayaker learning the ropes from those he looked up to, and ending with the year of his last big expedition, the Triple Crown (a made-for-TV moniker representing the Devil's Canyon of the Susitna, Turnback Canyon of the Alsek, and the Grand Canyon of the Stikine). In between, there's some great fiction, giving Ammons a chance to have some fun and comment on the state of the sport in general.
I've known Doug since our experience together on the Triple Crown, and I've been looking forward to this book for some time. Though I had read most of the stories in one form or another, they come together very nicely in this layout. Included is a very nice set of color photos from his experiences (I'll admit a bias, as he used a few of mine for this). Rather than feeling like a set of unrelated stories, this feels like one flowing narrative of a man's experiences with the sport.
Anyone who knows Doug would agree that he is a complex individual, and that sense certainly comes through in his stories. I have always admired his ability to write about the whitewater experience, describing in great detail the feeling of dropping into a huge rapid, or the satisfaction of paddling out of a deep, dark canyon.
This is more than just a hair-raising, thrill ride kayaking story, though. It's a thoughtful examination of the sport and the people who are involved with it. If you have been kayaking long enough, you realize it's not just about the adrenaline and the excitement, but it also has a lot to do with friendship, camaraderie and accomplishment. This book is a reminder of what makes kayaking more than just a weekend hobby and why it is so meaningful to so many of us.
I'm afraid my writing skills are not enough to convey the merits of this wonderful book. Read it for yourself. The book is available at Doug's website, http://www.dougammons.com/
Check it out while there are still copies available.
Also, more Triple Crown photos if you're interested: