Wednesday, April 1, 2009

What the *$&%)%(* is a booty beer?

What is a booty beer? You have no idea? Well my friend, you are in for a treat.

A booty beer is,

Utterly disgusting. Completely cathartic. Truly revolting. Soothingly spiritual.

It is simultaneously one of the best and worst experiences of my life.

Anyone who has spent enough time with a whitewater kayaker, rafter, river boarder or enthusiast of any discipline knows both the horrors and the joys of the booty beer. A booty beer combines the punitive spirit of Catholic nuns with the joys of alcohol and the horrors of toe fungus.

As the tradition goes, any rafter or kayaker that finds themselves unintentionally out of their craft and "into the drink"during a river trip has to pay for it in booty beer. An alcoholic beverage, preferably warm and flat, is poured into the poor paddler's "booty." If the paddler is "bootyless" they may have to imbibe from someone else's booty. Either way, as penance for their daring trip into the frothy waters of whatever river they've dumped themselves into, the boater must down the fungus-laden drink as quickly as possible.

Ever since my very first booty beer (I can't remember when this took place and I'm not sure if that has something to do with the amount of beer I consumed after the booty beer to get the taste out of my mouth or some sub-conscious memory blocking mechanism) I have had a bizarre fascination with the ritual. It has the same feel as a fraternity initiation, minus the, "Thank you sir! May I have another?" But if you look closer at what is going on, I think you'll find something much more valuable.

In the name of science, we're going to take a careful look at exactly what goes into a booty beer and why it is such a strangely important part of a sport that, unlike maybe NASCAR or rugby, does not cater exclusively to drinkers.

In this case I'm going to embarrass Alley, mainly because she now lives in another country and can't hurt me for doing this. Also because during her epic swim on the Lochsa River in Idaho, her shoulder was dislocated. After swimming herself to shore, Alley forced her own shoulder back into socket and said, "Dammit, there goes my paddling season." Alley is the essence of a boater and she took her booty beer like a champion.

It started with (lucky Alley) a lovely selection from Missoula's own Bayern Brewery.

With a little hlep from kayaking buddy Patrick, the beer hit the booty.

And then Alley took care of business...

To the lay person this is either lunacy, a severe violation of health code or, in the words of many a drunk college student, FREAKING HARDCORE!

Some paddlers treat this act as pure obligation. To not drink a booty beer after a swim is heresy. Others dismiss the act as a superstitious idiocy. Either way, it's always been a huge part of boating for me.

Maybe it's because every time you swim someone has to hit you with a rope, chase down a piece of your gear or tow you to shore. The act of watching you choke down some foot-soaked booze is a little bit of vengeance and payback for the lunacy that comes in the wake of an epic swim.

Paying back your paddling buddies for their efforts with a disgusting act of loyalty is bonding, powerful and fun. But the most important question is likely, why the hell would I name a blog after the act of chugging fungal booze, and what am I going to talk about in this ridiculously titled blog?

To answer simply? Everything.

The booty beer is everything that keeps people kayaking, living and taking risks. It makes light of a dangerous situation and it is the consequence for inevitably biting off more than you can chew. Many boaters have told me that, "We're all in between swims." But I'd like to think that we're all in between booty beers. It's what reminds us why we really take risks. The people that catch us when we fall. We owe it to them to not only push ourselves but to take appropriate risks.

So this blog is going to be dedicated to both my fool hardy outdoor adventures, as well as the reason they happen. It's one thing to push yourself, but it's an entirely different thing to know why.

The booty beer reminds us...

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