For many, the turning of the New Year is a time for traditions.
Some people make resolutions.
Some eat pork and sauerkraut.
Miranda Gruber (front) and Casey Gibson paddle during the 2010 Allegheny River Competitive Paddlers’ New Year’s Day Paddle.
And, some go outside and spend time on the water.
The Allegheny River Competitive Paddlers (ARCP) paddle every New Year's Day.
"The annual New Year's Day Paddle for me began in 1977," ARCP founding member Paul Gruber said.
That was his first year in canoe racing.
"Paul Carlberg, my original racing partner, paddled with me from the Warren General Hospital boat launch to Dunn's Eddy, roughly an eight-mile trip," Gruber said. "We made the front page of the Warren Times Observer on that initial voyage. Someone saw us on the water and snapped a picture as we were paddling under the railroad bridge. The caption in the paper said, 'Sailing into the Sunset.'"
"I decided then to do it every year and it became a New Year's Day tradition," he said.
It hasn't always been easy to find people to join him.
"It is much easier convincing friends to join me during ideal situations, but how often doe that happen on January First? Consequently, over the past 35 years, some of my trips were alone," he said. In the average year, at least a few people join. "There have been more than 50 different people do the New Year's Day paddle with me over the years."
The weather makes a difference, but it doesn't shut the event down.
"We have seen high water, low water, had to break through ice just to get in and out, snow storms, heavy rain, hail, dense fog, and yes, we have had nice days with warm bright sunshine, too," Gruber said. "Some years we needed to bundle up and make it a real short outing. Other times we could linger and enjoy the fresh air wearing just a T-shirt and jeans."
Personal flotation devices are required gear. In colder weather, wet suits are, too. "Occasionally, someone gets too close to an overhanging tree branch or hits an underwater obstruction and has an unexpected swim."
Those accidents bring to mind the "Bottoms Up Canoe Club" of the 70s and 80s.
Racing experience is not required, but because of the cold water conditions, the group discourages inexperienced paddlers. Canoes, kayaks, and even rowboats are welcome and have participated in years past.
In what has become a family event for Gruber, the 2013 event could feature eight or more paddlers. "This year's adventure with the Allegheny River being quite high will be a loop starting in Irvine paddling upstream as far as the group feels comfortable, then paddling or floating back to where we put in," Gruber said. "My son, Wade, and youngest daughter, Miranda, have been regulars the last few years, along with close friends Fran and Mark Kopta. So far, eight paddlers have shown an interest in joining the group's 2013 New Year's Day Paddle."
Some old acquaintances have stopped going on the outings, but they're not forgotten. "Paul (Carlberg) paddled with me for several years until other activities took precedence for him."
For, "We two have paddled in the stream, from noon until dinner time. But seas between us broad have roared since times gone by."