On Google Maps, you’ll find it labeled Naha River Tiderace. The locals and grizzled veteran seasonals call it Naha Bay. Tiderace might be a bit more accurate, because for one hour, before and after high tide, there is a short stretch of rapids that promise an exhilarating ride for those brave enough to go searching. Are you ready?
Your wetsuit is on, you and your friends are slowly floating around a corner in Naha Bay. No boat, no pool noodle, just a 7mil wetsuit between you and the cold, outstretched fingertips of the Pacific Ocean. All is calm, all seems right. Maybe you just hugged it out and told your friend how much you love them in an alcohol-induced, adrenaline-fueled moment of ecstasy. Maybe you didn’t do that. There’s no time to pin down who hugged who first because around the corner you see the rapids, you feel the tug of the current getting stronger, and you hear the sound of Alaska coming to a crescendo around you. All six of you make the exact same, “oooooooOOOOHHHH” sound as you each go over and into the first crest. The wetsuit along with your water-logged Nikes lend their buoyancy as you speed through, faster and faster, toward the stillness of the other side of the bay. Just as you think the ride is about to end, the roughest spot of the whole endeavor swallows you from behind and reminds you just how salty the water is here. It’s not a river like back home. It’s not fresh water. Damn it, you ALWAYS forget it’s salt water. There’s a wooden path that extends into the bay at the end of the rapids. Some of your friends are already up it and running to go again. Some are still struggling to climb the slippery wood and rock. Drunk Seth, the only Alaskan in the group and the only one not wearing a wetsuit has fallen onto the rocks or wood at least three times. Half-running, half-helping, you pull his arm up to the path and start yelling in chorus with the friends in front of you. You could do this all day.
And we did. Devon (Ohio)) and V (South Carolina)) and Molly (Alabama) and Ryan (Ohio) and Drunk Seth (Alaska))and I found the Naha River Tiderace and between sips of Jim Beam and coffee, and cases of Coors Banquet and Bud Light, we rode those rapids. We rented two skiffs from Knudson Cove, put Devon, Drunk Seth, and I in one which I dubbed the Fun-Vee and Ryan, V, and Molly in the other, aptly named the Humdrum-Vee.
I didn’t name them that just because of the slowness of their skiff, though it was the slower of the two. No, there’s just no way they could possibly have had as much fun as those of us in the Fun-Vee…the Devon, Joey, and Drunk Seth shit show.
Away we went, Ryan and Devon piloting us North towards Loring. The houses you see on the channel north of the road are incredible. So far north, the only way to get back to civilization is by boat or personal helicopter. There’s a solar powered cabin with a matching green house. If you know where to find it, there’s a glass-encased, twin-spired citadel high on a craggy shore. Beyond that, as a marker to turn right toward Naha, there’s Loring itself. Loring being the original city around here before Ketchikan became what it is. Naha Bay itself is beautiful. There’s a small dock to tie up to and a couple miles of great trail generously clad with the “Bear Country” signs I’ve grown accustomed to seeing. Did Ryan and I run around those trails looking for a lost Drunk Seth? Sure. Did some other people tell us they saw bears around where we thought Drunk Seth had fallen unconscious? Absolutely. Did some Ohio boys pirate a skiff and use it as a Jamaican bobsled (complete with theme song) to go down the wooden ramp into the Bay? Legally, I can neither confirm nor deny.
Do you need to ask any more questions? Grab some friends, rent a skiff, bring a wetsuit (or not), and ride those Naha rapids! Even if the weather sucks, (it’s still a rainforest up there) it will be one of your favorite days in Southeastern Alaska.
Written by Joey Rovinsky